Prison officer behind bars after she was 'love-bombed' by inmate

A prison officer who was "love-bombed" by a convicted rapist inmate tried to smuggle drugs worth tens of thousands of pounds into a jail for him and his cellmate. Hannah Angwaba, 30, was described as "relatively new" and "very inexperienced" officer at HMP Forest Bank prison in Greater Manchester.

She was "duped" into a "sham romance", reports the Manchester Evening News, when she was "exploited" by inmate Anton McPherson, 34, who "love-bombed" her in a bid to win her affection soon after she started working in the prison. A court heard how she was then caught with a package containing cocaine, cannabis, miniature mobile phones, and tobacco hidden in the braids of her hair as she arrived for an afternoon shift at the Salford jail.

The night before she had learned that the relationship was not genuine and that McPherson had a girlfriend on the outside, the court was told. But she still agreed to bring in the contraband after being "pressured and persuaded" by Julius Marshall, 33, who she is also said to have struck up a "friendship" with and been having "inappropriate" contact with. Angwaba then admitted bringing in several more packages and being paid for some of them.

READ MORE: Person dies after E.coli outbreak

LATEST: Man found dead in house starred in Channel 4 documentary as murder investigation launched

She has now been jailed while McPherson and Marshall have also been handed lengthy prison sentences. After completing her training Angwaba started working at Forest Park in December 2019. McPherson was sharing a cell with Marshall at the time.

Angwaba is said to have started what she believed to be a relationship with McPherson who was a self-confessed "pretty boy". In December 2020 McPherson was jailed for 11 years for twice raping a woman after a New Year's Eve party in Tameside in January 2019.

Phone records had shown that Angwaba had been texting Marshall on Christmas Eve 2019. Manchester's Minshull Street Crown Court was told she was subject to intelligence reports within the prison due to her over-familiarity with the two inmates. As a result their cell was searched in January 2020.

Officer found a Zanco-style small mobile phone, a USB charger piece, a number of sim cards wrapped in cling film, and a piece of paper with Angwaba's bank details on it. On January 22, 2020, a professional standards meeting was scheduled and Angwaba was pulled aside by the senior anti-corruption officer at the prison when she arrived for her shift for the day.

The court was told that during the meeting Angwaba had realised that the "game was up" and admitted she had a package of contraband in her hair which contained two small mobile phones, a charging cable, two sim cards, two USB memory sticks, two cling-filmed wraps of cocaine, five cling-filmed wraps of cannabis, two cling-filmed wraps of tobacco, and cigarette papers.

A general view of HMP Forest Bank
Angwaba had only recently started working at Forest Bank -Credit:Manchester Evening News

Edward Steele, prosecuting, said drugs had a value of around 10 times higher in prison than on the street. There were 27.76g of cocaine with a purity of 79% and an estimated value inside of between £22,208 and £27,760.

There was a total of 77g of cannabis with an estimated prison value of £7,700. Angwaba also admitted bringing in three previous packages saying she had been paid nothing for the first two but £300 for the third. She said she was due to be paid £500 for the package that was discovered.

Mr Steele described Angwaba as "naïve". He said: "In short Anton McPherson and Julius Marshall were the masterminds of the plan working in conjunction with one another from their shared cell. Hannah Angwaba was the naïve, so she thought 'loved up', new prison officer manipulated by the two prison inmates to do their dirty work and bring drugs into prison."

The judge said there was an "element of love-bombing" from McPherson. Mr Steele said text messages during the early part of the conspiracy show "a degree of protest from Hannah Angwaba" and a mission from Anton McPherson to go "from a quasi-relationship into using her as a vehicle to bring contraband into prison".

After Angwaba learned McPherson was in a relationship with a woman outside the prison the prosecution said Marshall took on the role of "bringing her back from the brink" of dropping out of the January 22 smuggle. One message to her from him read: "It’s not just his, it’s mine as well." In an interview Angwaba said Marshall had told her over the phone: "If you’re not gonna do it for Anton do it for me."

Custody image of Anton McPherson
The judge said there was an 'element of love-bombing' from Anton McPherson -Credit:MEN Media

The court heard that denied any of the previous packages contained drugs and said she did not know about the drugs in the package that was seized. She and Marshall pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A and class B drugs but were found guilty after a trial.

Angwaba admitted misconduct in public office and conveying a list B article (mobile phones) and a list C article (tobacco) into prison. Marshall admitted unauthorised possession of a mobile phone. McPherson admitted conspiracy to supply Class A and class B drugs and unauthorised possession of a mobile phone.

Andrew Scott, defending Angwaba, said she had had a "traumatic upbringing" and had now been diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder (EUPD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety, which "will have a trigger which has led to the commission of these offences."

He said she was otherwise an "intelligent, industrious, and ambitious young woman." He added: "I invite Your Honour to pass a sentence which will offer Miss Angwaba a glimmer of light in what will be a long and dark tunnel." Aubrey Sampson, representing McPherson, said his client had now been moved to HMP Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight and had only been able to see his family once in three years due to the geographical distance.

A sign for the prison
Angwaba admitted bringing in several previous packages of contraband -Credit:Manchester Evening News

Marshall's barrister, Stuart Duke, said there should be a "clear distinction" between his client's role and that of McPherson. Angwaba, of Leng Road, Newton Heath, shed tears and sat with her head in her hands as she was handed a four-and-a-half-year jail sentence. Judge Jonathan Seely said: "This is case is very seriously aggravated by the fact she took part in the conspiracy as a prison officer. It represents a significant breach of trust.

"There must be deterrent sentences for offending of this sort by prison officers. It strikes at the very heart of the criminal justice system. From my assessment of the evidence Hannah Angwaba was exploited by two male defendants, seasoned criminals both of them. She was exploited as a young woman with her own vulnerabilities, a very inexperienced prison officer. She was romantically exploited. That was a morally repugnant thing to do. But this is not a court of morals.

"She was duped but as far as she's concerned, things are not that straightforward. The evidence is that the night before January 22 it became clear the purported romance with McPherson was a sham she still went ahead with bringing in the drugs. Perhaps pressured and persuaded by Marshall. If she wasn't doing it for love she was doing it for money as she was receiving payment for bringing in the drugs."

He added: "Yes it's right Mr McPherson adopted the role of sham lover and Marshall didn't but it makes little difference to the real issue of this case which is bringing into one of His Majesty's prisons high-value drugs." McPherson, of no fixed abode, was given a five-year term which will run consecutively to his current sentence. Marshall, of Edgemoor Road, Crosby in Liverpool, who has a previous conviction for possession with intent to supply heroin, was handed a seven-year sentence.