Former prison officer married a murderer and now she's behind bars herself

Stephanie Heaps
-Credit: (Image: Greater Manchester Police)

A former police officer has been jailed for her involvement in a money laundering scheme with her murderer husband.

Stephanie Heaps, now known as Stephanie Ramsden, met Leon 'Layton' Ramsden, 35, while he was serving a life sentence for murder at HMP Wymott in Leyland, where she was working as a prison officer. Ramsden was sentenced to life, with a minimum term of 17 years in 2010 after killing Paul Gilligan, 31, at a Bolton pub.

An investigation by Greater Manchester Police revealed that Heaps, 32, had connections to an organised crime group associated with Ramsden, which was involved in money laundering, drug dealing and a burglary conspiracy. She was sentenced to four years and three months at Bolton Crown Court on Thursday.

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Police chiefs said she showed a 'brazen disregard' for the profession.

The couple are now married, with a strange AI-generated image of their wedding being shared on social media, reports the MEN.

Heaps was banned from policing at a misconduct hearing in October 2023. She joined Greater Manchester Police (GMP) as a PC in July 2019, but did not disclose her relationship with Ramsden. The pair's relationship was discovered following a tip-off in September 2019.

It was found that Heaps frequently visited Ramsden in prison, communicated with him on illegal phones he had in his cell, and shared sensitive police information with him. GMP stated that she failed to arrest a wanted domestic abuse suspect while responding to an incident, as the suspect was an associate of Ramsden's.

Stephanie Heaps, ex-police and prison officer, admitted to misconduct in a public office while serving at Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and as a prison officer at HMP Wymott. She also pleaded guilty to other serious charges related to telephone communications with inmate Ramsden through illicit mobile phones, involvement in planning a burglary in St Helens, and laundering drug money.

Stephanie Heaps pictured outside the prison
Stephanie Heaps pictured outside the prison -Credit:GMP

Ramsden, currently at HMP Berwyn, received an additional five years and seven months for his part in the crimes, which will be served alongside his existing murder sentence. Detective Chief Inspector Jennifer Adams of GMP's Anti-Corruption Unit said: "During our investigation, we were shocked by the actions of Stephanie Heaps and her brazen disregard for the standards required for both her roles in the police and the prison service."

She continued, detailing the investigative efforts: "As soon as we were made aware of Heaps' potential relationship with Ramsden, we conducted a number of detailed enquiries to ensure that the maximum amount of evidence about her offending could be collated so she could be held accountable for the full extent of her crimes."

"It's clear Heaps should never be trusted to serve the public, and it is testament to the investigation team that she was only in uniform for a matter of months before she was taken away from frontline duties for good and now put rightly behind bars along with Ramsden and his associates."

Alan Richardson, senior crown prosecutor for CPS North West said: "Stephanie Heaps was in a position of trust both as a prison officer and later a police officer. She knew that her actions created a serious conflict of interest and entirely compromised the trusted positions she held."

"The CPS worked hard with Greater Manchester Police to build a strong case. The strength of the evidence was such that Heaps had no option but accepts her guilt. Heaps will now face the consequences of her actions."

Four others from Bolton have also been sentenced in connection with the case. Philip Markland, 40, of Bardon Close, was sentenced to 22 months for conspiracy to commit burglary at an address in St Helens.

Lee Ramsden, 52, of Bleak Street, was sentenced to 15 months, suspended for 18 months; 25 rehabilitation days; and a six-month home detention curfew between 7pm and 6am, for conspiracy to transfer, conceal and convert criminal property.

Clifford McCarthy, 35, of Larkfield Grove, was sentenced to 15 months suspended for two years; 200 hours community service; and 10 rehabilitation days for conspiracy to transfer, conceal and convert criminal property.

Joanne Campbell, 48, of Gisburn Avenue, was handed a 13-month suspended sentence for 18 months, ordered to complete 25 rehabilitation days and referred to support services for conspiracy to transfer, conceal and convert criminal property.

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