A PRISONER has escaped from custody while on an escorted visit to a relative.

Police have warned Sean McGregor, 31, may be a danger to the public and should not be approached.

He escaped from G4S custody at about 1.45pm on Thursday while on escorted leave to visit a relative in Patna, East Ayrshire.

McGregor was imprisoned for four years for assault and robbery in September 2011. At the time he was serving 16 months for possession of a weapon, imposed in February 2011.

The Ayrshire area is being searched and officers are appealing for information about his whereabouts.

Detective Chief Inspector John Hogg, of Ayrshire CID, said: "I would advise that Mr McGregor may present a danger to the public and people are advised not to approach him if seen but to contact police. Officers are continuing with a search of the area, making contact with known associates and checking CCTV in an effort to trace Mr McGregor.

"I would appeal to Mr McGregor to give himself up and make contact with Police Scotland with a view to handing himself in. I would also like to reassure people that Police Scotland will have an increased high-profile police presence in the Ayrshire area until Mr McGregor is traced and arrested."

McGregor admitted assaulting a shop assistant and snatching hundreds of pounds from her till after brandishing a knife at her on January 18, 2011. When he was sentenced, the High Court in Edinburgh heard he had panicked when challenged by a customer, dropping cash and his knife as he tried to flee.

Lord Bannatyne said at the time that his record was "wholly dreadful".

A G4S spokesman said yesterday: "The prisoner was granted this special leave on licence which means he was authorised to be out of prison custody but subject to certain conditions.

"On-licence leave is a privilege that is earned. Therefore, it is disappointing the prisoner made the decision to undermine the trust placed in him.

"As is the normal procedure, a full report into the circumstances of the incident will be submitted to the Scottish Prison Service."