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Hollesley: Fugitive claims he fled open prison after being forced to look after drugs by fellow inmate

PUBLISHED: 12:13 20 February 2014 | UPDATED: 12:13 20 February 2014

Johnathan Ewing

Johnathan Ewing

A prisoner has told a court he fled Hollesley Bay open prison after he was forced to look after illicit drugs worth £2,000 by another inmate.

Lee Devereux Lee Devereux

Johnathan Ewing is the third absconder since November 2012 to make claims about drugs being available in the jail near Woodbridge.

Ewing admitted to escaping from custody when he appeared before Ipswich Crown Court yesterday, with fellow absconder Lee Devereux.

The friends walked out sometime after 11pm on September 8 last year and 7.30am the following day.

Ewing, 44, formerly of Colchester, was serving an indeterminate sentence for GBH after shooting a 20-year-old man 34 times with an airgun, and the man’s 13-year-old brother.

Devereux, 43, formerly of Long Melford, was serving life for an armed robbery at H Samuel in Sudbury in 2002.

Prosecutor Francis Gaskin said the men were nearing their release dates when they left prison.

Before Devereux left he had placed a duvet inside his bed to make it look like somebody was asleep.

A search of Ewing’s cell led to 4.47grammes of herbal cannabis being found.

A letter was discovered in Devereux’s cell explaining he felt he did not have any choice but to leave as he did not want to be liable for things due to Ewing’s departure. He also apologised for the inconvenience.

Mr Gaskin said Ewing was found by police in Avon Way, Colchester, on September 12.

During a police interview he gave two reasons for absconding.

Mr Gaskin said: “Primarily it was because of unhappiness with the proposal that he was going to a hostel in Basildon on release, but also because of threats and difficulties. He suggests he was asked to look after drugs and it was a problem.

“He explained during the interview he had taken with him on leaving what he thought was £2,000 of Spice, a legal high that replicates to an extent the effects of cannabis which it appears is in relatively common circulation within that establishment.

“He didn’t have it when arrested so it had been disposed of somehow.”

Devereux handed himself in at a Colchester police station on September 13.

Before Ewing’s counsel Paul Donegan began mitigation, Judge John Holt told him: “He (Ewing) seems to have got into trouble of some sort with a drug dealer in the prison and decided to walk out rather than face that.”

As well as admitting escaping from custody, Ewing pleaded guilty to possession of cannabis. Devereux also admitted escaping from custody. Both were given an extra six months’ imprisonment on their existing sentences.

A Prison Service spokesman said: “The number of absconds from open prisons in 2012/13 was the second lowest since records began, and all those located in open prisons have been rigorously risk assessed and deemed suitable for open conditions. Anyone who does abscond will be returned to a closed prison and may face further criminal charges.

“Staff at HMP Hollesley Bay take the use of illicit substances in prison extremely seriously and use a range of robust measures to keep them out, including specially trained dogs, random drug tests and searches.

“Anyone caught with such substances will be dealt with severely and can be referred to the police for prosecution.”

He added around 18 months ago an independent report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons praised Hollesley Bay’s drug strategy and showed low levels of random positive drug tests.

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