Erica Whittingham began a relationship with Michael Seddon while she worked at HMP Dovegate, in Staffordshire, where he was serving a term for his part in the violent robbery of an elderly farmer.
When Seddon was moved to the nearby HMP Sudbury, an open prison in the Derbyshire Dales, the pair continued their relationship – with Seddon communicating using a mobile phone he had snuck into the facility.
On the evening of 1 October 2019 Seddon escaped from HMP Sudbury, climbing over a fence as staff gave chase. He then fled in a waiting car driven by Whittingham.
The 33-year-old drove Seddon to Stoke the following morning where he then caught a train to Liverpool.
The following day, after information was found to suggest a relationship between the pair, Whittingham, was challenged by colleagues while at work.
She admitted the relationship, resigned from her position, and was arrested.
While the investigation into the pair continued, she met up with the escapee on at least eight other occasions across the country.
Seddon, 32, who was previously jailed for his part in a robbery which saw a 78-year-old farmer tied to a chair and beaten, was eventually found in Bournemouth in March 2020.
He was jailed for six months a month later after admitting escaping lawful custody.
Whittingham of Leigh Lane, Bramshall, Uttoxeter, previously pleaded guilty to harbouring an escaped prisoner and misconduct in public office. Today (10 August), at Derby Crown Court, she was jailed for three years.
Heather Saville, of the East Midlands Special Operations Unit’s Regional Prison Intelligence Team, said: “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.
“Erica Whittingham then continued her relationship with Seddon, irrespective of the police investigation, something the judge has clearly not looked too favourably upon today.
“We work hard, in partnership with the Prison Service and the prisons themselves, to identify any corruption within our prisons establishment, and 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.”