A fraudster who had been given day release from Springfield prison in Buckinghamshire so he could see his girlfriend went on the run for nine months.

Ali Hamza, 25, was finally caught when police officers spotted him driving a white BMW in St Albans Road, Watford.

He had been allowed out for the day on April 20, 2019 and was told to return to the open jail by 4pm, St Albans crown court heard.

Prosecutor Charles Judge said Hamza, from Dollis Hill, London had been jailed for 5 years in June 2018 at Maidstone crown court. He had scammed 26 pensioners out of thousands of pounds.

“He had been given a prison mobile phone. He was called when he did not arrive back on a train. The calls went onto answer phone,” said Mr Judge.

On January 11 a police officer in Watford spotted the car, which was linked to Hamza.

“The police parked close to BMW. He drove backwards and forwards in attempt to drive away," the prosecuter said.

“An officer opened the door and told the defendant to stop. He said he had a problem with the gear box. He said his left his ID at home and gave false details."

The officer checked his details and arrested Hamza who had told him: “Go f... yourself.”

Hamza appeared for sentence having pleaded guilty to being a prisoner at large, obstructing a constable, having no driving licence and no insurance.

Defending Grahame James said Hamza had missed his return train to Bicester and had panicked. “He spent nine months saying to himself: ‘I have got to hand myself in.'"

He said he had returned to a higher category jail with fewer privileges and is not now eligible for release until January 20, 2021.

Recorder David Bridge jailed him for a further 10 months, saying “an offender like this undermines the public’s confidence in the system.”