Bury St Edmunds: Ex-Con Jailed For Helping Cellmate Escape

18 June 2013, 16:34 | Updated: 18 June 2013, 17:16

An ex-convict has been jailed for 10 years for breaking his cellmate out of prison in a terrifying gunpoint hold up at West Suffolk Hospital.

44-year-old Garry Cowan, who had committed almost 500 offences, held a replica handgun to a female prison officer's head as she accompanied Andrew Farndon to hospital in January last year and threatened to shoot her if he was not released.

The pair, who had shared a cell at Highpoint jail in Stradishall, Suffolk, had hatched a plot to free Farndon, 27, before Cowan was released two weeks earlier.

On January 25 Farndon was working out in the prison gym when he self-inflicted a 24cm cut across his shoulder and told guards he had been attacked in a toilet.

It was all part of a plan to get him sent to West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds where portly Cowan - who has a history of carrying out knifepoint raids - would be waiting.

The plan worked.

Farndon, who was serving an indefinite jail term for smashing a motorist's head with a claw hammer and baseball bat, was escorted by prison officers Kim Lockwood and Chris Matson.

The offender - who later went on the run and threatened two policemen at gunpoint - was flanked by the duo who took him to hospital in a security approved taxi from A1 Cars in Bury St Edmunds.

They arrived at the hospital at 6.51pm with Ms Lockwood handcuffed to Farndon with Mr Matson carrying the keys.

As they got out of the car Cowan, who is originally from St Andrews in Scotland, jumped into action with the firearm.

``He pointed it at her right temple,'' said Gregory Perrins, prosecuting, at the Old Bailey.

``'Let him go, take the handcuffs off','' the barrister said Cowan demanded.

Cowan told Ms Lockwood: ``You've got 30 seconds to get it off or I will shoot you.''

Ms Lockwood told the court she thought she was going to die.

The offenders fled towards a Ford Escort in a nearby car park and Cowan shouted back warnings not to follow or he would open fire.

Police searched the area and found a homemade balaclava with Cowan's DNA on it.

That evening traffic cameras picked them up driving through Cambridgeshire and they were tracked going to Scotland.

Cowan, who began offending in 1983, was arrested in the home of another ex-convict at 2am on January 28 in New Cumnock, East Ayrshire.

He gave a false name and address.

Police found a ``blueprint'' for the raid with a list of items needed.

Cowan denied assisting an offender and possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence but was convicted by a jury.

Farndon pleaded guilty to escaping from custody.

After going on the run Farndon, whose indefinite sentence was handed down in 2007 after ramming another vehicle and launching the hammer attack, went on the run.

The car he was travelling in crashed and two plain clothed police officers went to help but he turned a gun on them - the same one Cowan used to free him.

He pointed the firearm at one officer and demanded their car but one of the officers struggled with him and managed to knock the gun from his grip.

He was arrested and in May this year jailed in Glasgow for six years.

The earliest he would have been able to apply for parole would have been May 2017, the Old Bailey heard.

Cowan and Farndon were convicted over the escape last December but their sentencing was delayed by a series of doctors' reports into Farndon's sanity.

He is awaiting the assessment of doctors from high security Ashworth Hospital near Liverpool.

His legal team are waiting to see if Ashworth - where Moors Murderer Ian Brady resides - can accommodate him.

He has however been diagnosed as having two severe personality disorders.

Cowan and Farndon, guarded by six dock officers today, have extensive criminal pasts.

Former heroin addict Cowan has 41 convictions for 481 offences committed under 10 aliases.

They stretch from minor dishonesty matters to terrifying shop raids.

In July 2002 he was jailed for armed robbery.

He entered a shop brandishing a meat cleaver and with tights over his head.

In June 2003 he was back before the courts for burglary and two robberies.

In one, wearing stockings over his head, he held a knife to a cashier's throat.

In the other robbery he threatened two young shopworkers with knives.

Farndon has nine convictions for 18 offences including setting fire to his mother's home, burglary, assault and criminal damage.

He said his motivation for the jail break was to give his sick mother his kidney as she needs a transplant.

He will be sentenced on July 2.

Sentencing Cowan to successive sentences of three years for possession of the firearm and seven years for assisting an offender, Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC, said the break-out took considerable planning.

``You remained in contact with Farndon by means of the illicit mobile telephone which he had in custody,'' he told Cowan.

``This wasn't to be an escape from the building but more serious through the threat of force.''

The judge commended both prison officers for their professionalism.