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Shildon couple who frog marched vulnerable man to cash point both jailed
A COUPLE cruelly took advantage of the vulnerability of a man with learning difficulties in a bid to force him to hand over money, a court was told.
The victim was attacked and locked in his own flat, then “frog marched” to a cash point machine in an effort to withdraw money to give to his captors, former 'friends' Roxanne Leigh and John Marsden.
Durham Crown Court heard that the couple, who were previously allowed to lodge, for “a week or two”, at the flat in Shildon, returned early on the evening of August 29 as Leigh claimed to have left a jacket.
Ian West, prosecuting, said once inside she demanded £20 for hair straighteners which she claimed to have borrowed from someone else, which she said the tenant must have lost.
But as he did not have £20, the couple said they would stay until the following day when they knew he would receive his next benefit payment.
Mr West said at one point they went out for a pizza, but took the tenant’s key and locked him in his own flat.
While they were out, the frightened man, said to have learning capabilities of a 12-year-old, tried to knot bed sheets together in a bid to lower himself from the first floor window.
But the couple returned after only 15 minutes and Marsden attacked the man before he could put his escape into practice.
He was punched several times, then kicked when he fell to the floor.
“Having assaulted him, they relieved him of his phone and then decided to take him to the cash point to see if he had money in his account,” said Mr West.
“He was, effectively, frog marched to a nearby cash point, to insert his card, only to find the machine was out of order.”
As they were taking him to another cash machine Marsden attacked him again, before police, alerted by witnesses, came across the trio.
Marsden ran off, but was chased and detained, while Leigh was also arrested.
The victim suffered swellings to the head, but no further injuries.
Despite making a mixture of denials and refusing to answer police questions, Marsden 23, of Dent Street, and 31-year-old Leigh, of Jubilee Road, Shildon, both admitted false imprisonment, theft of the mobile phone, and common assault at an earlier hearing.
Leigh also admitted two counts of fraud, relating to £70 she demanded from a housebound man, in June, claiming to be a police officer making on-the-spot fines for him having cctv cameras outside his home.
She was arrested when she made a third visit to the house, also in Shildon, in an apparent bid to repeat the crime.
Shaun Dryden and Chris Baker, representing the pair, both conceded it was “unpleasant offending” for which they expected to receive custodial sentences.
Jailing Leigh for 14 months and Marsden for a year, Recorder Toby Hedworth said they targeted “vulnerable victims” to attempt to defraud easy money.
Marsden was also made subject of a ten-year criminal anti-social behaviour order while both he and Leigh were given restraining orders forbidding them trying to contact or approach the victim of the August offences, for five years.
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