THE Chief Constable of Sussex is to be quizzed over the number of inmates escaping from an open prison.

Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne will raise the issue of absconders from Ford Open Prison with acting chief Giles York following a number of high-profile escapes.

The force has been criticised for launching a public appeal to help find convicted murderer Robert Donovan four years after he went on the run from Ford, near Arundel.

The 57-year-old, who was jailed for life in 1974 for his part in the brutal stabbing of a West End theatre manager under a London bridge, failed to return to the category D HMP Ford after leaving on day release on June 19, 2010.

The call to help find Donovan is the latest in a number of appeals for missing prisoners from Ford in the last month, including armed robber Kevin Brown and violent robber Simon Rhodes-Butler.

A police spokesman said it was unclear why an appeal had not been launched at the time of Donovan’s escape but a new investigating officer took the decision to make the appeal after reviewing the case.

The force added that it had been actively looking for Donovan since he went missing and had been liaising with other forces.

Conservative backbench MP Philip Davies said the four-year delay by police was “absolutely extraordinary” and the public had a right to know “straight away” of the presence of any convicted killer in their neighbourhood.

He added: “I understand that the police were following other leads. Blimey, they were following them pretty slowly if it has taken four years to make a public appeal.”

Steve Gillan, general secretary of the Prison Officers’ Association, said he found the delay in the police appeal “astounding”.

Residents have been urged not to approach Donovan, who may be using the alias David Green and has links to London, the Midlands and Portsmouth.

Sussex Police said the likelihood of him being in Sussex was considered low.

PC Steve Reed said: “We have been looking for Donovan for several years without success, which suggests he has left Sussex and could be elsewhere in the country.

“We need to speak to anyone who could have any idea where he is or where he could be.”