Man who held up prison officers at gunpoint at hospital jailed

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An ex convict who held up two prison officers at gunpoint to spring a former cellmate at West Suffolk Hospital has been jailed for 10 years.

Gary Cowan, 44, brandished an imitation fire arm during a planned operation to free Andrew Farndon.

The pair had been sharing a cell at Highpoint Prison, in Stradishall, and put their plan into action two weeks after Cowan was released.

He had been serving 18 years for a string of robberies, while Farndon, 27, had been jailed indefinitely for a hammer attack on a motorist.

Their plot involved Farndon slashing his own shoulder, inflicting a 10in wound, so he would be transferred to a nearby hospital.

When he arrived at West Suffolk Hospital, in Bury St Edmunds, two prison guards escorting him were threatened with an imitation Glock 17 8mm pistol by Cowan.

He ordered them to release Farndon’s handcuffs, saying: “You’ve got 30 seconds to get it off or I will shoot you.”

As the pair made their escape, he warned: “Don’t think about following us or running after us or I will shoot.”

The pair then drove to Scotland, where Farndon was arrested after turning the same weapon on plain clothes police as he tried to steal their car.

He was handed a six-year jail term by a court in Glasgow last month.

Farndon had already admitted escaping from custody at Woolwich Crown Court last October.

Cowan was convicted of possessing an imitation firearm and assisting an offender after a trial.

At the Old Bailey, Cowan was sentenced to seven years for assisting an offender and three years for possessing an imitation firearm.

The Common Serjeant of London, Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC, said the offences were so serious the sentences would run consecutively.

He told Cowan: “Simply planning an escape which would involve violence of any kind to prison officers is a serious matter and must attract a substantial sentence before going on to consider the particular means you have at your disposal in this case.

“There must in my judgement be a consecutive sentence to reflect your obtaining and carrying of the imitation firearm with the necessary intent.’

Judge Hilliard also said the prison officers involved should be commended for their bravery.”

Tim Grey, in mitigation, said Cowan, who has a record dating back to 1983, had only become involved in serious crime when he turned to drugs after the death of two of his children.

His three-year-old son Liam died in 1992, two years after another younger child was the victim of cot death.

Sentencing of Farndon was adjourned until July 2.