Inmate 'tried to strangle prison staff with shoelace'

Click to follow
The Independent Online

An inmate tried to strangle a prison guard and an orderly with a shoelace at one of Britain's largest women's prisons, a court heard today.

Karen Easterbrook, 55, had decided to kill after being jailed for attempted murder the previous day, the Old Bailey was told.

Ruby Selva, prosecuting, said she held the laces taut between her hands and placed it around the neck of Nicholas Hilton.

He managed to get free but Easterbrook then advanced on Alison Bailey, an inmate who had been made an orderly at Bronzefield jail in Ashford, Middlesex.

Ms Bailey was rescued after screaming for help. Five officers ran to the kitchen area where they were, but were unable to prize the lace away.

"It had to be cut," said Miss Selva.

Easterbrook, of no fixed address, denies two counts of attempted murder in July, 2008.

The attacks took place in the Separation and Care Unit of the jail where Easterbrook was being held.

Miss Selva said: "Karen Easterbrook has a long history of serious violent offending of a similar nature.

"The day before she was sentenced for an offence of attempted murder at Nottingham Crown Court.

"During the hearing she became frustrated in the way in which her barrister had mitigated on her behalf.

"This frustration and anger festered and during the night and day, she would tell prison staff and the police, that she formed a plan to strangle someone."

Miss Selva said Easterbrook had first decided Ms Bailey was the best target as she would be alone with her as she cleaned her cell.

She took the shoelace out of her trainers and threw them in a bin to avoid suspicion, it was alleged.

Miss Selva added that Easterbrook later said: "I knew when I took the shoelace out that I was going to strangle somebody."

Due to Easterbrook's "good behaviour", she was allowed out of her cell for most of the day instead of being confined for 23 hours.

Remembering that it was said at her sentencing that she only attacked women, Easterbrook said she decided to strangle Mr Hilton, the jury heard.

Miss Selva added: "Nicholas Hilton is first aware of Karen Easterbrook's breast plate pressing into his back, on looking up and seeing her hands in fists and a long lace wrapped around each fist.

"She is pulling her fists outwards so that the lace was taut. The lace came down over his head and past his face.

"Alison Bailey describes his voice being strained and his face being bright red."

She had helped him get his fingers under the lace and drag it with difficulty up over his face.

After screaming, Ms Bailey was found struggling with Easterbrook, having backed her up into a sink.

A woman prison officer jumped on Easterbrook's back and five other officers were summoned.

"The ligature still taut in the hands of Karen Easterbrook had to be cut to be released," said Miss Selva.

Ms Bailey wept as she told the court: "She didn't blink, she didn't flinch - it was like she was in a trance. I was so shocked, scared."

The trial was adjourned to tomorrow.