A MALVERN man whose Houdini-like escape from a mental hospital led to a major bomb scare is today being hunted by police.

Benjamin Bonnaud, clad in a tweed suit, wriggled through an 8in by 15in window before going on the run on Tuesday, March 13.

On Thursday, Metropolitan Police searching for him had to call in bomb experts and evacuate 10 homes after discovering a suspicious package at his Pickersleigh Road house.

It emerged yesterday that Bonnaud had already been arrested at the house on Thursday, March 1, following a BBC Crimewatch appeal two days earlier.

He was taken to London and remanded at a secure unit in the Park Royal Centre For Mental Health, Brent, on Sunday, March 4, while he awaited trial for an alleged 20-year harassment campaign against a woman.

But he fled the secure wing after removing the window - having used toothpaste to keep it in place and fool staff - and squeezing through it.

Six-foot-tall Bonnaud then scaled a 16ft perimeter fence using two propped-up benches.

Police yesterday warned that the 47-year-old - who was not at the house when officers reached Malvern - was still at large.

They were keeping an open mind about whether he was connected with the suspicious package, which turned out to be a harmless remote control device.

Dr Peter Carter, chief executive of Brent, Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster Mental Health Trust, said an investigation into Bonnaud's escape was under way.

He said it was only the second time a patient had escaped from the unit.

"It's quite extraordinary how a 6ft man of ordinary build managed to squeeze through a slit 8ins deep," said Dr Carter.

"He's very astute and clever. He managed to chip away at the window and camouflaged it with toothpaste for several days. You wouldn't think it was possible for someone to get through there and that was why these windows were designed that way."

Bonnaud is described as white with streaked highlights in his hair and blue eyes, well spoken and of medium build.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said: "We have reason to believe he could be a danger to himself and to others. Do not approach him. Anyone who does see him should call 999."