Mother jailed for 20-year-old crime
A mother who attempted to rob a petrol station then fled to Ireland has been jailed for 18 months - after evading justice for almost 20 years.
Naomi Mothersoul, 54, and then partner Colin Ashman, 43, were captured by police after the "frightening" knife incident at the station in Easton-in-Gordano, Somerset in 1994.
Bristol Crown Court heard Mothersoul, of Wells, Somerset, and Ashman were kept in custody for a week before being released on bail.
The couple immediately fled Britain and set up home in Tralee, Co Kerry, Ireland, while warrants for their arrests were left outstanding for two decades in the UK.
But this year, a detective sergeant who had investigated the case as a police constable decided to finally bring the pair to justice as a final operation before his retirement.
A European Arrest Warrant was issued for Mothersoul, while Ashman was detained after attempting to enter the UK via a South Wales port.
Judge Michael Roach jailed Ashman for five years in September, while Mothersoul was handed an 18-month term at the court today.
"When you were 34 you were party, with Colin Ashman, to the attempted robbery of a filling station in Easton-in-Gordano," the judge told Mothersoul.
"The person who took the dominant role in the attempted robbery was Mr Ashman and he produced a knife.
"I have no doubt this upset and frightened the man involved.
"After your arrest, you fled the jurisdiction. It was only after extradition proceedings this year that you were brought back and pleaded guilty to the offence you committed."
The court was told that at 11.30am on September 16 Mothersoul and Ashman arrived at Markham Filling Station on a motorbike.
John Caines, owner of the station for 32 years, filled up the motorbike for the couple as asked before waiting for payment.
Ashman suddenly pulled a flick knife and headed towards Mr Caines, who managed to sprint back to the petrol station building and lock himself inside.
Mr Caines took the registration number of the motorbike and phoned police. Officers raced after the pair and tracked them to the M5 motorway.
Ashman and Mothersoul were arrested and held in custody for a week, before being released on police bail pending a court appearance.
Prosecuting, Richard Posner said: "They fled to Ireland and for nearly two decades warrants for their arrests remained outstanding.
"Last year Mr Ashman was arrested when he was stopped trying to get into the UK at a port of South Wales."
Mr Posner said Ashman appeared at Bristol Crown Court in September this year, admitted charges of robbery and attempted robbery and was sentenced to five years in prison.
"It almost brought an end to a case that had waited 18 years for justice," Mr Posner added.
"Michael Porter, who had investigated the case at the time, made it one of his last actions as a detective sergeant before retiring to bring Ms Mothersoul back to the UK."
A European Arrest Warrant was granted for Mothersoul and the mother-of-three was extradited back to the UK on August 8 this year.
She pleaded guilty to the attempted robbery and not guilty to a charge of robbery, which will lie on file, Mr Posner told the court.
Michael Porter retired in September, days after Mothersoul first appeared in court.
Representing Mothersoul, Catherine Spedding said her client fled to Ireland as she had a three-year-old daughter in 1994 and did not want to lose her.
The relationship between Mothersoul and Ashman broke down after a few years and the pair have had no contact for more than 15 years, she said.
"She has lived a life with her three children in a council house in Tralee in Ireland," Ms Spedding said. "There has been nothing further in terms of offending.
"She has been working in a voluntary capacity in a charity shop. Nobody in her family knew what had happened in 1994.
"The knock on the door came inevitably, she was told she would be brought back to England. She says in many ways it was a relief."
Ms Spedding said Mothersoul would return to live in Ireland with her children after serving the sentence without anything "coming back from her past to haunt her".
Mothersoul, who uses crutches and wears glasses, told the judge "thank you, your honour" as she was led to the cells.
Speaking after court, Mr Porter told the Press Association he was "delighted" the case had been closed.
Mr Porter retired from his role in Avon and Somerset Police's Major Crime Investigation Unit in September, after 30 years of service.
He now works as the security manager for the University of Bath.
"I am delighted for the victims and their families," Mr Porter said. "One of the victims died shortly before Colin Ashman was arrested.
"I spoke to his widow a few days ago and she said he never got over it. The emotional impact it had was phenomenal.
"I have been tracking these two for 20 years. The old adage 'you can run but you can't hide' is very appropriate.
"You never like cases left unsolved and this was one of mine. It is nice to resolve it, especially as the victims can see we never left it."