Female prison guard, 33, who helped violent inmate lover escape from jail by driving getaway car and supplying him with clothes while on run is jailed for three years
- Erica Whittingham waited outside HMP Sudbury for her lover Michael Seddon
- Violent robber Seddon, left a decoy in his cell to trick guards during his escape
- The couple met up in hotels at least eight times over a period of six months
- The court heard Wittingham, 33, has now split from her husband of 11 years
Erica Whittingham, 33, helped her inmate lover Michael Seddon escape from HMP Sudbury and met him at least eight times over the next six months
A female prison officer helped a dangerous robber escape from jail in Derbyshire after falling in love and forming a relationship with him behind bars.
Derby Crown Court heard how Erica Whittingham was waiting in her car outside HMP Sudbury and then drove Michael Seddon away after he left a decoy in his cell to trick guards.
For the next six months she remained in contact with her lover, meeting him in hotels around England and buying him gifts such as clothes while he was on the run.
Whittingham said that she had fallen in love with the violent robber who had been part of a gang that tied up and battered an elderly farmer. He was caught after he formed a relationship with another woman.
Now the 33-year-old will return to prison as an inmate rather than an officer, having been jailed for three years.
Recorder Balraj Bhattia QC said: ‘You knew what you were doing was wrong and I am satisfied you were complicit in his escape.
‘You were responsible for driving him away knowing he was an escaped prisoner.
‘You were complicit in him being unlawfully at large for a long period.’
Daren Samat, prosecuting, said Whittingham and Seddon began a relationship when she was working at HMP Dovegate in Staffordshire where he was then serving.
He said after Seddon was moved to HMP Sudbury they remained in contact with him using a contraband mobile phone and her using a ‘burner’ phone.
Mr Samat said: ‘On October 1, 2019, Mr Seddon escaped form HMP Sudbury.
Derby Crown Court heard the pair had maintained contact using an illegal mobile phone in Seddon’s cell and a burner phone owned by Whittingham
‘He had left a decoy on the bed, left the prison and into a car where the defendant drove him to Stoke railway station from where he caught a train to Liverpool.
‘Intelligence showed there were suspicions she had started a relationship with him while working at Dovegate and the following day as she was at work she was held.’
Mr Samat said mobile phone analysis showed the pair had been in contact with each other after Seddon Dovegate left to go to Sudbury.
He said over the next six months he was unlawfully at large they met on at least eight occasions including a hotel in Birmingham and in Manchester, Tamworth, Lincolnshire, Crewe, Merseyside and Bicester.
Mr Samat said Seddon was arrested in Bournemouth in March 2020 having formed a new relationship with a different woman.
Whittingham, from Bramshall, Uttoxeter, previously pleaded guilty to harbouring an escaped prisoner and misconduct in public office.
Mark Sharman, her barrister, said that since being dismissed by the Prison Service his client had found work at a residential care home.
He said she has represented her country internationally at Badminton and at the time of the offence had split up from her husband who she had been with for 11 years.
Mr Sharman said: ‘She is brutally honest in her pre-sentence report when she relates she had found someone (Seddon) that she loved.
‘Whether that was reciprocated or not that is what she believed.
‘She was smitten with this man.’
Seddon, from Bootle, was 22 when he was jailed in 2011 for his part in a terrifying robbery.
He was one of a gang of four men found guilty of tying a 78-year-old farmer to a chair in his own home and beating him in a shocking two-hour ordeal.
This week’s hearing was told he was previously handed an extra six months to the one he is serving for escaping lawful custody.