Drug-fuelled gang that tortured victim in 12-hour ordeal jailed for 35 YEARS

·9-min read
Drug-fuelled gang that tortured victim in 12 hour ordeal jailed for 35 YEARS
Drug-fuelled gang that tortured victim in 12 hour ordeal jailed for 35 YEARS

A ‘DRUG-fuelled’ gang of feral youngsters tortured their so-called friend during an ordeal that saw her burned with cigarettes, force-fed heroin and raped.

Ringleader Sonny Weir, 20, was egged-on by love interest Natasha Washington, 20, as they subjected their victim, who was known to them, to more than 12 hours of bullying violence after the latter lured her former friend to the Banbury flat.

They were joined in their depraved torture of the woman by Alexander Azevedo, 21, in whose flat the ordeal took place on June 21 last year, and then 16-year-old Argest Sallaj – who can now be named after the judge lifted a reporting restriction that had banned his identification.

After hours of on-off abuse, which saw Washington, Weir and Azevedo force the woman to smoke heroin, the couple disappeared to have sex in a bedroom while Azevedo raped her in the living room.

Their romp complete, Washington and Weir tied her to a chair then beat her until she was badly bruised. Azevedo then sent her home in a taxi.

Oxford Mail: The ordeal took place in a flat in Britannia Wharf, Banbury Picture: GOOGLE
Oxford Mail: The ordeal took place in a flat in Britannia Wharf, Banbury Picture: GOOGLE

The ordeal took place in a flat in Britannia Wharf, Banbury Picture: GOOGLE

Jailing the gang for a total of 35 years at Oxford Crown Court this afternoon, Judge Nigel Daly said: “This all went on for something like 12 to 16 hours. She was totally abused, humiliated and tortured. It included as I say, forcing her to take heroin and eventually being raped.

“Had I not heard the evidence I do not think I would have believed this sort of thing could have happened between so-called friends and acquaintances.

“I was shocked not only by the events covered by this indictment but by the lifestyle that you described, the lifestyle you were leading, as if it was in some way normal.

“None of you were over 20 years. You seem to have descended into a life of drug-fuelled debauchery, displaying a total lack of morality or self-control.”

Summarising the night of torture at Friday’s sentencing hearing, prosecutor Patrick Duffy said: “This is a brutal set of offences.

“These four defendants initiated a campaign of violence and threats against the complainant, inducing in her a state of terror as they falsely imprisoned her, abused her, assaulted her and [in the case of Azevedo] raped her.”

Washington lured her to the flat on the false pretence of a party, the prosecutor said.

She was held against her will in Azevedo’s flat for 12 to 16 hours. Weir locked the doors and told the victim: “No one is leaving.”

Oxford Mail: Natasha Washington and Sonny Weir Pictures: TVP
Oxford Mail: Natasha Washington and Sonny Weir Pictures: TVP

Natasha Washington and Sonny Weir Pictures: TVP

Washington began the ordeal by branding her a ‘pig’ and a ‘snitch’, while love-interest Weir rang Sallaj and told him to come over and ‘beat the s*** out of this girl’ before telling the victim to ‘shut the f*** up or I’ll stab you’.

That threat was followed up later with Weir holding a knife to her face and demanding to know where she wanted to be cut. “You will be scarred for the rest of your life,” he told her.

Over the evening, she was made to drink chilli sauce and the contents of a bottle of water used as an ashtray.

Cigarettes were stubbed on her skin, she was made to eat garlic granules, beaten with a hairbrush and vacuum cleaner parts, and had pliers applied to her tongue by Washington and Azevedo.

Sallaj ‘booted’ her as she was on the ground being forced to clean up. The youngster also spat at her and scrubbed her skin using a dishcloth scourer pad.

The young victim was made to stand in the shower while the defendants switched between hot-and-cold water. Her hair was cut by Weir using a knife then, later, by Washington using scissors.

She feared that she would be killed and her body dumped in the woods. Sallaj said they could ‘get a van’ and ‘take her out to the woods and kill her’. Washington suggested they could ‘leave her in a tent in the woods’.

Mr Duffy said the evidence implied that Sallaj wanted to see the woman’s semi-naked torso, asking her to remove her arms from where they were crossed over her chest. “He [Sallaj] told you to move your arms. F***ing move your arms and listen to him,” Weir told the victim.

Having taken drugs before she visited the flat and taken cocaine at points during the evening, her nose was held and she was forced to smoke heroin by the three older participants and Weir made her take Valium.

Oxford Mail: Judge Nigel Daly said he would not have believed the allegations had he not heard the trial Picture: OM
Oxford Mail: Judge Nigel Daly said he would not have believed the allegations had he not heard the trial Picture: OM

Judge Nigel Daly said he would not have believed the allegations had he not heard the trial Picture: OM

It followed Weir telling her: “Crack head? I’ll show you a crack head.” The victim was filmed singing a song about her being a ‘crack head’ and the footage uploaded to her Snapchat.

Later, Washington and Weir disappeared to a bedroom to have sex. Left alone with the victim, Azevedo raped her the sofa then told her to clean herself up when he had finished.

Washington and Weir returned from the bedroom, tied the victim to a chair and beat her.

Rapist Azevedo put her in a taxi and sent her home, where her shocked mum saw her and took her to A&E after speaking to her in the kitchen.

When the woman arrived at hospital the police were called. She told detectives in a video-recorded interview played to jurors at the trial I February: “I genuinely thought I was never going to see my family again. I was thinking, well, no one’s going to know I’m here, my family don’t know I’m here. No one’s ever going to find me or know what happened to me.”

THE DEFENCE:

Mitigating, Justin Rouse QC said his client had had a ‘tragic and traumatic’ childhood during which he had struggled with mental health difficulties. He had returned to his flat on the night to find it in disarray. “The war had started and he wasn’t entirely clear why.”

The barrister challenged the prosecution’s characterisation of the rape as among the most serious type when looking at the sentencing guidelines. He pointed to a conversation Azevedo and the victim had about a contraceptive implant in her arm and suggested he may have had an ‘unreasonable belief’ she was consenting to sex.

Azevedo was said to be remorseful and had shown empathy for the victim.

Oxford Mail: Alexander Azevedo Picture: TVP
Oxford Mail: Alexander Azevedo Picture: TVP

Alexander Azevedo Picture: TVP

Emma Akuwudike, for Washington, challenged the suggestion the victim was ‘lured’ to the flat. “This was a spontaneous act of violence,” she said.

Her client had previously been a dental nurse but, during the pandemic, was put on furlough and developed a drug habit. She had expressed remorse for what she described as her ‘depraved and shameful behaviour’ and was ‘determined to be a better person’.

Lyall Thompson, for Weir, said her client had had a ‘particularly difficult upbringing’. He was stabbed as a teenager and had also fallen into dealing drugs. He had the ‘potential’ to be a decent member of society in the future and was ‘not a lost cause’.

Weir, whose previous convictions included conspiracy to supply drugs, was also sentenced on Friday for a single count of being concerned in an offer to supply class B drugs. He was stopped in the company with another young man at Bournemouth Railway Station on October 27, 2020. The pair had £500 in cash and a ‘burner’ phone containing messages linking them to drug supply.

Julian Lynch, for Sallaj, said the teen’s involvement was at a ‘much lower’ level than the others in the dock. His client was only in the flat for a couple of hours and was not involved in the worst of the offending. Having left school at 16, his father got cancer and the teen obtained work, ‘grafting’ all hours of the day. A series of character references spoke of him as a ‘polite and dedicated young man’.

Sallaj was acquitted of the two most serious counts that he faced – allegations of urinating on her and pouring boiling water on her shod foot. He asked the judge to pass a sentence that would spare him an immediate spell in custody, saying the community would ‘probably be safer’ if he were kept out of prison.

Oxford Mail: Argest Sallaj Picture: TVP
Oxford Mail: Argest Sallaj Picture: TVP

Argest Sallaj Picture: TVP

SENTENCED:

Azevedo, of Britannia Wharf, Banbury, was convicted of rape, false imprisonment, administering heroin and ABH. He was found not guilty of one count of ABH and administering Valium. He was jailed for 15 years.

Weir, of Pope Walk, Banbury, was cleared making a threat to kill and one ABH count but convicted of administering a noxious substance with intent, false imprisonment and ABH. He received nine-and-a-half years, including a six month sentence for dealing drugs in Bournemouth.

Washington, of no fixed address, was convicted of false imprisonment, ABH and administering heroin but acquitted of administering Valium with intent. She was jailed for eight years

Sallaj, 17, who can be named after the judge lifted reporting restrictions, was convicted of false imprisonment, ABH, common assault and battery. He was cleared of pouring hot water on her foot and urinating over her. He was sentenced to three years in a young offenders’ institution.

Reacting to the sentencing, Marc Thompson, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “The dreadful violence shown towards this young woman was truly senseless. Alexander Azevedo’s offences are especially horrific, taking place at a time when she was in no fit state to object to any sexual acts, or to defend herself.

“The victim’s bravery – giving police interviews, providing as much evidence as she could – is truly commendable, and was vital in helping us secure the convictions. I hope today’s sentences allow her to bring some closure to this chapter of her ordeal.”

Read more from this author

This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting