Millionaire's daughter 'part and parcel' of looting
Tuesday 27 March 2012
A university-educated millionaire's daughter who drove looters around while they robbed people at knifepoint during last year's riots was "part and parcel" of the criminality, a court heard today.
Laura Johnson, 20, was given opportunities to call the police and drive away from four men who had "effectively kidnapped" her, London's Inner Crown Court heard.
Johnson had gone to pick up her friend Emmanuel Okubote, 20, known as T-Man, from Curry's, in Bromley Road, Catford, south east London, when he and three other men wearing hooded tops, bandanas and balaclavas, got into the back of her car and ordered her to drive.
The student had begun a close friendship with Okubote during the summer after being introduced to him by a friend she met while a mental health unit outpatient.
Johnson, who the jury has heard previously tried to kill herself, says she was too frightened to report the men or flee during their rioting on August 8.
The defendant denies being a willing participant in the gang as they drove around the Catford, Hither Green and Charlton areas of London while the men got in and out of the car to loot and rob people.
But today Sandy Canavan, prosecuting, said the student was making things up as she went along in her defence.
Johnson was in possession of mobile phones during her effective "kidnap", which meant the four men believed she would not report them, the barrister said.
Miss Canavan said: "The only reality is you were left with the phones as they (the men) were absolutely sure they weren't at any risk of you having access to those because you were very much part and parcel of what was taking place."
The defendant entered a petrol station alone that evening to pay for fuel and could have raised the alarm, Miss Canavan said.
"If you had the phones with you, you could have called the police yourself," she said.
"I could have, yes," answered the defendant.
"You could have texted anybody to indicate you were in trouble," Miss Canavan added.
"I could have, yes," replied Johnson.
"The reality is you would have got in touch with somebody to say 'I am in trouble, help'."
The defendant answered "No I wouldn't", and agreed with the barrister's suggestion that she was "terrified".
Johnson, from Orpington, south east London, denies three counts of burglary and three alternative counts of handling stolen goods.
The eight men and four women of the jury have heard that Johnson was raped by two men on July 14 last year, but did not tell anyone at first, causing her mental health to become "worse than ever before".
Jurors have heard she began self-harming after splitting up with her boyfriend earlier in the year and tried to commit suicide six times by overdosing on tablets.
The defendant has said her mental health was very unstable leading up to the evening of August 8 and she was taking anti-depressants and medication for anxiety at the time of the rioting.
Johnson said Okubote - T-Man - was physically violent towards her, placing a hand around the back of her neck in a threatening manner when she argued with the men in the car.
Today she admitted lying in police interview, telling detectives she was not directly threatened.
"That's a lie, yes," she said.
Miss Canavan said: "You have taken the considered decision to lie to everybody in interview about what had happened."
The defendant said: "I was minimising."
Miss Canavan said Johnson was "trying to make the case of duress better" by changing her account and she was never actually threatened by T-Man, about whom Johnson was "crazy", the barrister said, "head over heels".
"You've added layers and layers, helping you play out a false defence of duress but it's the only one you can think of to get you out of the ruin you have made of your life."
ohnson's barrister, Martin McCarthy, asked her: "Have you made up the rape to help you with this case?"
She replied "No," and said she did not find it easy to discuss.
The court heard that Johnson was preoccupied with her weight in her early teens and cut the word "fat" into her thigh aged 14.
Reading through her medical notes, Mr McCarthy said she had classed herself as "hideous" and would freeze when attention was put on her.
Brian McKenzie, a chartered clinical and forensic psychologist, who treated the defendant last year, said in a report she was "certainly vulnerable to exploitation from others".
The jury heard she disappeared for a day last July and allowed her credit card to be used with a lot of money being spent on it.
Johnson and her boyfriend broke up in April last year triggering in her depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, the court heard.
Mr McKenzie said he found in her "an emotional flatness or indifference to her predicament".
He also said she had a "loss of hope, a resignation and indifference to what the future might bring," yet it was still important to her to be able to help her family.
Mr McKenzie said Johnson told him about the rape which the court heard happened on July 14 last year at a boy's house.
The psychologist said Johnson told him she said "No," to the attackers but she was unable to fight them off and froze.
After the attack finished she apologised to them, he said.
"It felt to me very significant of how worthless she was feeling about herself at that point," Mr McKenzie said.
"It brought to the surface how deeply damaged she was at that point.
"It's a horrific experience but to me her response during the rape showed an enormous psychological disturbance."
Mr McKenzie will continue giving evidence at 9.30am tomorrow.
A 17-year-old defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admits one count of burglary but denies two further counts of burglary or handling stolen goods.
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