Prison-break gang sent to jail
A gang who broke two prisoners out of a custody van in an armed raid have been jailed.
A trio of armed men broke prisoners Ryan MacDonald and Stevie McMullen free from the vehicle during the audacious breakout in Salford, Greater Manchester.
The gang smashed a window with an axe before threatening the van driver with a shotgun and hitting him on the head.
They then forced the custody staff to release MacDonald and McMullen.
The attack happened at 9am on April 30 last year as the GEOAmey prison van made its way from HMP Altcourse, Liverpool to Manchester Crown Court where McMullen was standing trial accused of a kidnap, conspiracy to commit robbery, conspiracy to commit arson and possession of a firearm, while MacDonald was due to be sentenced for conspiracy to commit robbery.
The prisoners, both of no fixed address, admitted conspiring to escape from lawful custody. They were also found guilty of conspiracy to possess an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, Greater Manchester Police said.
MacDonald, 21, and McMullen, 32, were both sentenced to 13 years in prison at Manchester Crown Court.
McMullen was also jailed for 12 years for conspiracy to rob, conspiracy to commit arson and conspiracy to kidnap.
Nathan Chapman, 25, Matthew McGivern, 32, and Anthony Smith, 21, and an unidentified fourth person were in a Saab car that approached the prison van on Regent Road. Three of them carried out the attack before driving away in their car.
Chapman, of Mulberry Court, Pendleton, and Smith, of no fixed address, both admitted conspiracy to escape from lawful custody and conspiracy to possess an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and were jailed for 10 years.
McGivern, of Red Moss Row, Agecroft, was found guilty of conspiracy to escape from lawful custody and sentenced to seven years in prison.
He was also jailed for six years for possession of a Class A drug with intent to supply.
A number of other people involved in the escape were also jailed.
Paul Taylor, 24, of no fixed abode, was arrested by Spanish police on the terrace of a Benidorm cafeteria in March and extradited back to the UK.
He was sentenced to five years and four months in prison after pleading guilty to conspiring to escape from lawful custody.
Mavis Chapman - Nathan Chapman's 64-year-old grandmother - of West Crown Avenue, Ordsall, Salford, tried to hide the axe used by the gang in a neighbour's wheelie bin.
She was found guilty of perverting the course of justice and was handed a 15-month prison term.
Karla Withers, 29, of St Joseph's Drive, Ordsall, was found guilty of conspiring to escape from lawful custody. She also pleaded guilty to possession of ammunition without a firearm certificate and was sentenced to four and a half years in prison.
Marcus Hill, 28, of Chedworth Crescent, Little Hulton, and Michael Crossley, 26, of Bradford Road, Farnworth, both admitted assisting an offender.
Hill was sentenced to 16 months imprisonment and 12 months for possession of a controlled drug with intent to supply. Crossley was sentenced to 16 months in prison.
Michael Morrison, 18, of Adelphi Court, Salford, admitted conspiracy to escape from lawful custody and was sentenced to three years and four months in prison.
Stephen Wilson, 18, of Rosamund Drive, Salford was found guilty of conspiracy to escape from lawful custody and was sentenced to five and a half years in prison.
Ainsley MacDonald, 21, was found guilty of intentionally encouraging or assisting the commission of an either way offence after she contacted Ryan MacDonald on a contraband mobile phone while he was in prison. She was jailed for 15 months.
Detective Chief Inspector Phil Reade of Greater Manchester Police said: "There are no doubts that this was a pre-planned and well executed operation that resulted in Stevie McMullen and Ryan MacDonald being sprung from a prison van.
"Weapons and threats of violence were used during this incident, which generated both press interest and concern within the community in equal measure but what we have proven is that the determination of everyone involved to free McMullen and MacDonald was matched only by our resolve to recapture them and bring all conspirators to justice.
"For the life of me I cannot believe that they genuinely thought they could pull this off and get away scot free but then I don't think they calculated into their plans our response, which was significant and utilised experienced officers from across the force to track them down one by one.
"This has been an extremely complex investigation involving many defendants but our detectives have worked tirelessly to identify and bring to book those responsible and the sentences handed down reflect the severity of what occurred."