'Smitten' prison officer helped inmate lover escape

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A former prison officer has been sentenced to three years to jail time, after she helped her lover escape from jail.

Erica Whittingham was working at HMP Dovegate, a prison in Staffordshire, England, when she began her relationship with inmate Michael Seddon.

The BBC reported after her marriage broke down, Whittingham became "smitten" with Seddon.

"She was smitten with this man," her defence barrister Mark Sharman reportedly told the court.

"It is right that history is littered with the often foolish and extreme things people have done in the name of love."

Mug shot of Erica Whittingham. Source: Derbyshire Constabulary
Prison worker Erica Whittingham began a relationship with an inmate after her marriage broke down. Source: Derbyshire Constabulary

At the time, Seddon was serving time for his involvement in a violent robbery where he tied a 78-year-old farmer to a chair and heat him, Derbyshire Police said in a statement.

Seddon was moved to HMP Sudbury, a nearby prison where the two continued their relationship, with Seddon smuggling in a mobile phone and using it to communicate with Whittingham.

On October 1, 2019, Seddon climbed the fence at HMP Sudbury and escaped the prison, fleeing in a waiting car which Whittingham was driving.

Whittingham then drove the fugitive to a train station in Stoke, where he boarded a train to Liverpool.

On October 2, information came to light suggesting Whittingham was engaged in a relationship with Seddon and she was questioned by her colleagues at work.

Whittingham admitted she and Seddon had a relationship, she resigned from her position at the prison and was arrested.

While the pair was being investigated, Whittingham continued to meet up with Seddon on at least eight occasions across England, while he was out of prison.

However, despite Whittingham believing Seddon loved her, he began a relationship with another woman while on the run, the BBC reported.

Mug shot of Michael Seddon. Source: Derbyshire Constabulary
Michael Seddon escaped from prison while in a relationship with Erica Whittingham. Source: Derbyshire Constabulary

Prison worker sentenced for aiding escape

In March 2020, Seddon was found in Bournemouth on the south coast of England, he admitted to escaping lawful custody and was jailed for six months.

"This case is a prime example of how far some people are willing to go in their corruption as to assist a man convicted and incarcerated for a violent offence, to walk freely within our communities,” Heather Saville from the East Midlands Special Operations Unit’s Regional Prison Intelligence Team said.

Derbyshire Police said Whittingham was sentenced to three years in jail on Tuesday, after previously pleading guilty to harbouring an escaped prisoner and misconduct in public office.

“This inmate made good his escape thanks, in part, to the assistance of a trusted member of prison staff, tasked to do the absolute opposite," Ms Saville said in the police statement.

“Erica Whittingham then continued her relationship with Seddon, irrespective of the police investigation, something the judge has clearly not looked too favourably upon today."

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