Man found guilty of hospital gun threat

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A man was convicted on Monday of holding two prison officers at gunpoint to help an inmate jailed for a violent assault escape custody.

Garry Cowan, 45, was found guilty of springing Andrew Farndon with the aid of a replica handgun from outside West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds on January 25.

The getaway took place after Farndon was taken to the accident and emergency ward with a knife wound sustained at Highpoint jail in Stradishall, Suffolk.

Farndon was serving an indeterminate sentence after fracturing a victim’s skull in a hammer attack.

Cowan, his former jailmate, had been released 15 days earlier after serving a nine-year sentence for robbery.

He denied possession of a replica firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, and assisting an offender to escape.

A jury at Woolwich Crown Court reached a unanimous guilty verdict on both counts.

Cowan has 41 previous convictions for 180 offences.

During the trial, prison officers Kim Lockwood and Chris Matson told the jury they feared they would be killed when the gunman threatened to shoot them moments after arriving at the hospital.

Giving evidence, Miss Lockwood said the gunman told her she had 10 seconds to remove handcuffs from the prisoner, while Farndon kept repeating: “I’m sorry miss, let me go.”

The pair fled on foot before escaping in a getaway car, the trial heard.

Mobile phone data placed Cowan outside West Suffolk Hospital that afternoon, the prosecution said, and the defendant’s DNA was found on a jumper sleeve used as a balaclava and on the inside of a case which allegedly contained the gun.

He was also picked out in an identification parade by Miss Lockwood.

Cowan denied being the accomplice and told the jury he was hitch-hiking through England at the time Farndon escaped.

Judge Nicholas Hilliard told the defendant he faces a ‘substantial’ prison sentence.

Farndon, who has pleaded guilty to a charge of escape, also faces court proceedings in Scotland for three alleged firearm offences.

The pair will be sentenced at Woolwich Crown Court on January 18.