By Connie Osborne Friday 20 December 2013 Updated: 20/12 17:22
A GROUP of men have been sentenced to more than 34 years in jail for helping an HMP Hewell inmate break free from a prison van.
The prisoner – who cannot be named for legal reasons – went on the run for over a year following his escape from the van in January 2012.
He was being transported to court from the Tardebigge prison, where he was being held after being charged with murder, when the van was forced to stop by a car blocking the road.
A trio of men wearing balaclavas and carrying what appeared to be firearms and sledgehammers got out of the car and smashed the windows of the prison van before dragging the driver out of his seat, assaulting him and demanding he open the main door to release the prisoner.
The prisoner, who is in his 30s, then escaped for more than a year before he was arrested in March 2013 in Northern Cyprus for immigration offences, before being deported back to the UK.
Following an eight-week trial at Woolwich Crown Court, which ended in November, two men who denied any involvement in helping him escape were found guilty of conspiring to assist his escape from lawful custody.
The prisoner who was freed from the van pleaded guilty to conspiring to escape from prison at the start of the trial and has been sentenced to seven years and two months in prison.
On Friday (December 20) his Honour Judge Kinch QC sentenced one of the men involved, who also cannot be named, to six years in prison.
A second man, Robert Riddell, aged 41 and of Flamborough Close, Castle Bromwich, was sentenced to three years and eight months in prison.
Moysha Shepherd, aged 23, and of Hamstead Road, Great Barr, was sentenced to four years and nine months while Ryan Powell, aged 21 and of Shenstone Road, Ladywood, was given four years and three months behind bars.
Luke Hazel, aged 25 and of HMP Hewell, was also given the same sentence, while Paul Cadby, aged 47 and of Woodcote Road, Erdington was handed four years in prison.
Supt Kevin Purcell, policing commander for North Worcestershire, said he was satisfied with the sentences given to the men as they reflected the serious nature of the offences which had been committed.
"This was a carefully planned and well-thought out escape plan. While the men’s motives to free the prisoner remain unknown, we hope their lengthy sentences serve as a deterrent to anyone else who would consider taking such risks for another.
"We also hope their imprisonment reassures local people that when prisoners do abscond from prisons in our area, we will do all we can to find them and uncover anyone else who may have aided their escape, leaving no stone unturned."
He concluded by thanking officers from West Midlands and Staffordshire Police for their help.
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