Eight men assaulted Craig Jones in his cell at Hewell prison, West Midlands. One of the gang members is alleged to be a Muslim serving ten years for causing the death of a soldier by dangerous driving in 2014.
Jones, formerly of 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, had only recently arrived at the jail and was targeted because of his military service, a source said. “I was told he had a fractured eye socket, they sliced up his face and beat him to within an inch of his life. It was a major incident,” the source added.
Jones was taken to Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, where soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan are treated. He is expected to be returned to prison shortly.
A Prison Service spokesman confirmed that an incident had taken place and said that a police and prison investigation had been started.
“A prisoner at HMP Hewell was taken to hospital following an incident on Saturday, January 9,” the spokesman said. “The circumstances are being investigated by both the police and the prison, and we will take action against anyone found to have been involved.”
The Muslim inmate was jailed in October. He had already been banned from driving when he sped through a red light at almost 70mph and ploughed into the back of a car being driven by the soldier, killing him instantly.
He ignored the carnage at the scene and ran off, but four witnesses wrestled him to the ground. The victim had served with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers and received full military honours at his funeral.
Nick Hardwick, the outgoing chief inspector of prisons, expressed concern last month about the threat posed by Muslim gangs in jails, including fears that they may be radicalising vulnerable inmates.
He said prison officers should not be deterred from tracking gang-related activity if the members of the gangs were Muslims.
One prison governor said that the growing influence of Muslim gangs was a major issue for the jail system. The governor said that many prisoners were so fearful of Muslims that they formed alliances with them for protection.
Others, however, say that some inmates were attracted to joining Muslim gangs because they were seen as the latest powerful group in Britain’s jails.
Prison sources said that the attack on Jones was not being investigated as a racist incident, but was thought to be linked to a dispute over tobacco.
Hewell prison holds 1,266 remand and sentenced prisoners. A prison inspection report in 2014 found significant levels of violence, including some serious attacks. The previous year there was an attempted murder. The report said prisoner-on-prisoner assaults were high and that they were often linked to debt, which arose because of delays in new inmates receiving orders of tobacco from the jail’s shop.