Prison officer helped inmate lover escape and romped in hotels as he was on run

A disgraced female prison officer who fell in love with a violent robber and helped him escape jail has been thrown behind bars.

Erica Whittingham, 33, drove Michael Seddon away from HMP Sudbury and romped with him in hotel rooms for six months.

The divorced former England badminton player fell in love with him while he served at HMP Dovegate in Staffordshire.

She bought a "burner" phone to keep in touch with the lag when he was transferred and waited for him in her car outside his jail.

Derbyshire Crown Court heard he left a decoy in his cell to trick guards during his escape, DerbyshireLive reports.

Whittingham met him in hotels across England and bought him gifts such as clothes while he was on the run for the next six months.

Seddon, who was part of a gang that tied up and battered an elderly farmer, was arrested after forming a relationship with another woman.

Whittingham was jailed for three years after telling the court she had fallen in love with the violent robber.

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.

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"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 from HMP Sudbury.

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"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 left Dovegate to go to Sudbury.

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He said over the next six months while 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, of Bramshall, Uttoxeter, Derbys., 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 had split up from her husband of 11 years when she became "smitten" with Seddon.

Seddon, from Bootle, was 22 when he was jailed in 2011 for his part in a terrifying robbery.

He was handed an extra six months to the one he is serving for escaping lawful custody.

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