Prison officer jailed for assisting drug baron while ‘blinded by love’

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A SENIOR prison officer who had an affair with a career criminal and helped him when he was behind bars has been jailed for three years.

Rebecca King, 33, did not tell the authorities she had begun an affair with drug baron David Turnbull and put credit on a mobile telephone he used from behind bars, Teesside Crown Court heard.

When she was arrested officers found £9,490 of Turnbull’s cash, including some stuffed in a Vivienne Westwood handbag, in the loft of her mother’s home.

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton jailed the mother of two children, aged six and 11, saying: “It was not foolishness, it was palpably worse. It was palpably wrong and it was palpably criminal.”

King had met Turnbull while working at HMP Wealstun, near Wetherby, in 2006 but the prosecution accepted their affair started after his release, in 2008.

The romance, said to have started while she was vulnerable, continued after he was arrested and held on remand in 2011 for his part in a large-scale cocaine, cannabis and heroin conspiracy. He has since been jailed for almost nine years.

King, from Selby, bought top-ups for the phone at local supermarkets and sent him the activation codes via texts. The court heard there were 1,600 mobile phone contacts between them while he was at Holme House Prison, Stockton, Teesside.

King admitted concealing criminal property, knowing or believing it was his benefit from criminal conduct, and three charges of misconduct in a public office at a previous hearing.

The judge accepted prison officers deal with the “most dishonest and most skilled at manipulating others” but said they are trained in handling them.

He said prison officers are trusted by the public, but told King: “You broke that trust.”

The couple went on holiday to Mexico in 2010 and the £2,300 bill was paid in cash, the court heard.

Christopher Knox, defending, said King’s probation officer stated she had became blinded by love.

“This woman became involved in the relationship and she should have disclosed it,” he said. “She got dragged further into it. [The probation officer] is satisfied this was simply a woman who fell quickly in love with this particular man.”

The judge acknowledged time in jail for an ex-prison officer would be difficult.