FOUR men being held in connection with the escape from custody of a convicted murderer have been released by police.

The arrests in the hunt for Shaun Walmsley, from Liverpool, were made in Poole on Friday afternoon.

Dorset police said armed officers stopped a silver Vauxhall Corsa at about 3.45pm on Friday in Canford Cliffs.

Officers fired tyre deflation rounds to stop the vehicle and detained the men on suspicion of aiding and abetting escape from lawful custody.

Merseyside police said the suspects – two men aged 24 from Toxteth, a 25-year-old from Maghull and a 25-year-old from Vauxhall – had been released pending further inquiries.

Walmsley escaped from custody outside Aintree University Hospital in Merseyside after two armed men ambushed the car he was travelling in on Tuesday, February 21.

According to police Friday's incident was a response to reports that a number of people believed to be involved in Walmsley’s escape were travelling through Dorset.

Bournemouth Echo:

Armed officers stopped a silver Vauxhall Corsa around 3.45pm on Friday along Haven Road in the Canford Cliffs area of Poole.

During the planned operation specialist officers discharged tyre deflation rounds directly into the tyres to stop the vehicle and arrest the four men.

A number of unmarked vehicles were used in the operation, which included police officers with handguns and submachine guns.

Nobody was injured in the incident and no other weapons were discharged.

Walmsley, described as "highly dangerous", is one of four men serving life sentences for the "vicious and savage" stabbing of Anthony Duffy in 2014.

He was handed a life sentence with a minimum term of 30 years.

Detective Chief Inspector Gavin Dudfield, of Dorset Police, said: "Dorset Police responded to reports that a number of people involved in the unlawful escape of Shaun Walmsley were travelling through Dorset.

"This was a successful targeted operation and I would like to thank all the officers involved, including our alliance colleagues at Devon and Cornwall Police as well as Merseyside Police.

"I appreciate that due to the nature of the incident there may have been some concerns in the local community so I would like to thank the public for their patience and understanding while these necessary arrests were made."

Bournemouth Echo:

Computer engineer Theodore Frank, who was working at nearby Select World Travel, said: "Suddenly there was a car, a swerve, a pop and smoke. Then we saw all the police outside. It sounded like gunfire, but it could have been the tyres on the vehicle. They just exploded, then police came from everywhere."

Meanwhile, Charlie Pride, who works in the Central Convenience Stores shop - only a few yards from where the drama unfolded - said: "I heard shouting, looked out and saw two cars had boxed in the silver car.

"People in balaclavas with guns were shouting, to be honest I didn't realise they were police at that time. They didn't look like police at all.

"I saw them fire what looked like a pink bean bag thing at the tyres of the car, then dragged four people out of the car.

"I heard the pop, of what I now think was the tyre - and the pop of whatever was fired at the tyre.

"There was just a lot of shouting and it was all over far too quickly."

Another witness, who asked not to be named, said he was walking along Haven Road when he also heard this "pop, pop, pop sound".

"It sounded like a car backfiring, then I saw the people being taken out the car. How the police drivers managed to get in front of the car is beyond me, obviously well-planned."

Another witness said: "I heard shouting and thought there had been a crash or something and people were arguing - then I heard what I thought were shots. It is pretty frightening, I'm still shaking."