Prison worker mums who had secret behind-bars-boyfriends caught after heading to jail showers

-Credit: (Image: North West Regional Organised Crime Unit))
-Credit: (Image: North West Regional Organised Crime Unit))


These are the faces of two care workers who smuggled drugs and phones into prison for inmates after becoming ‘infatuated’. Amy Portwood and her colleague Adrienne Juniper became obsessed with two robbers who were both serving time at the jail where they worked.

Juniper struck up a relationship with Darren McAndrew who was locked up for carrying out a raid on a jewellery shop in Nantwich. And Portwood became friendly with convict Philip Phythian.

The women took contraband into the jail and also exchanged a string of 'overtly sexual' texts and WhatsApp messages with their behind-bars-boyfriends, whose initials they allegedly had tattooed on their bodies.

Liverpool Crown Court heard McAndrew was subject to an extended 12-year sentence for robbery and aggravated vehicle taking for his part in a gang raid on Moodys on Pillory Street in Nantwich in 2016. McAndrew and his accomplices smashed a hole through the shop window and grabbed a number of watches before making their escape in a vehicle.

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Meanwhile, Phythian had been serving a six-year sentence for robbery and possession of a bladed article in a public place in late 2021, the Liverpool Echo reports.

Philip Astbury, prosecuting, described how Portwood and Juniper were 'regular visitors' to the category C HMP Risley in Warrington as care workers for contractor Care Plus and were responsible for caring for a disabled prisoner called John Kelly. However, they instead became involved in 'romantic relationships' with Phythian and McAndrew.

Portwood's phone was shown to have exchanged 1,134 phone calls with the former over a period of a month, as well as 294 text messages. The two had also shared more than 1,000 WhatsApp messages between November 2021 and January 2022, including images which had subsequently been deleted from her device. Mr Astbury said that a number of these messages were 'overtly sexual in their content' while others referenced 'tiny phones' and 'sniff'.

Juniper and McAndrew, meanwhile, called one another 60 times and exchanged 1,598 texts, with some again being 'sexual in nature'. These included the inmate sending topless pictures of himself to the staff member.

When the two mums attended work on the morning of January 7, 2022, a drug detection dog was said to have 'taken an interest' in Juniper and jumped up at her. However she 'passed this off' by stating that she was wearing perfume and was allowed to continue onwards into the prison.

Adrienne Juniper -Credit:Facebook
Adrienne Juniper -Credit:Facebook

The 35-year-old and Portwood thereafter visited Kelly's cell, where Phythian and McAndrew 'loitered in the vicinity' before speaking with the two employees. The women were seen on CCTV taking their patient to the shower in his wheelchair, which had an 'out of place' blue bodywarmer on the back.

This garment was searched upon their return and contained five separate packages packed full of illicit goods. Their contents included a quantity of tobacco, a mobile phone, two USB sticks, cannabis resin worth up to £2,880 within the prison estate, herbal cannabis valued at as much as £1,850, £600 of cocaine, crack cocaine worth £200 and £240 of heroin.

A search of Juniper's home revealed £3,530 cash, as well as around £500 worth of Turkish lira. A further £348 was seized from a drawer in Portwood's bedroom.

The court heard that the 41-year-old - of Hughes Avenue in Orford, Warrington - had the letter 'P' tattooed on her forearm in an apparent reference to Phythian. Similarly, Juniper had a tattoo of the letter 'D' on one of her fingers.

Juniper, of St Helens Road in Leigh, has no previous convictions. Philip Tully, defending, told the court: "Both of her children are children with complex needs and, if she was to receive an immediate custodial sentence, the impact upon the children and their care and wellbeing is likely to be significant.

"She had worked as a carer for eight or nine months with that company prior to these offence being committed with no issues whatsoever. In fact, she was highly thought of.

"Ms Portwood, having struck up a relationship with one co-defendant, told her that someone was romantically interested in her. She foolishly became involved in what she thought was a relationship with him.

Darren McAndrew -Credit: North West Regional Organised Crime Unit
Darren McAndrew -Credit: North West Regional Organised Crime Unit

"She was experiencing difficulties in her long term relationship and felt flattered by the approach. This led to her agreeing to take tobacco and, gradually, other items into the prison.

"This action was totally out of character. She is someone with a good work ethic and, despite difficulties in her personal life, she has been in employment and financially providing for her family.

"She is someone who suffers issues in relation to her mental health. She is from a supportive and close family and has expressed shame and disgust about her actions and the pain she has caused everyone."

Portwood has one conviction for unrelated offences in 2003, for which she was fined. Appearing on her behalf, Gareth Bellis said she had been 'blinded by love and affection' and subjected to a "form of grooming to a certain extent".

But he added: "She went into this with her eyes open. Clearly, she has shown genuine remorse.

"Your honour will take into account how she became involved in these offences. One might say, but for the others, she would not have been involved."

Portwood and Juniper pleaded guilty to conveying prohibited articles into a prison and possession of heroin, cocaine, cannabis, cannabis resin and steroids with intent to supply. The former nodded and became tearful as she was locked up for 22 months.

Juniper received a 22-month imprisonment suspended for two years, plus 160 hours of unpaid work and a rehabilitation activity requirement of up to 30 days. She burst into tears as she was spared an immediate jail term.

Philip Phythian -Credit:North West Regional Organised Crime Unit
Philip Phythian -Credit:North West Regional Organised Crime Unit

McAndrew and Phythian, both of whom are of no fixed address but from Manchester, admitted conveying prohibited articles into a prison and possession of a prohibited item in a prison. Appearing via video link to HMP Forest Bank, they were each handed a further three years and nine months behind bars on Thursday.

Phythian has a total of 18 previous convictions for 36 offences - including receiving 10 years for robbery, wounding with intent and aggravated burglary in 2009. Gemma Maxwell, defending, stated that the 33-year-old had served a year in custody after being recalled on licence, adding: "It is conceded that the defendant has a poor record, but he does not have any drug matters."

"He has taken steps to rehabilitate himself. He has occupied a trusted position within the prison."

McAndrew's criminal record shows 10 entries for 22 offences. These include robberies in 2000, 2003 and 2016 and wounding with intent and possession of a prohibited firearm in 2008.

The 40-year-old's counsel Milena Bennett said: "He was serving a lengthy sentence in prison under covid restrictions. He was feeling quite lonely because he did not have any visits from his family.

"Rather than targeting or grooming the co-defendant, he will say it was a mutual attraction between the two of them and he refutes any intimidation or coercion. He started asking initially for tobacco because he was missing it in custody.

"That progressed to asking her to bring cannabis for him for personal use. Unfortunately, due to the fact that others noticed the relationship between the two of them, he was asked to ask for other items to be brought into prison, and he did.

"He regrets his actions immensely. Not very long after the commission of the offences, he was released on licence. He was back with his partner and children. All of that came crashing down when he was recalled to custody.

"He started committing offences at a very young age. He was living a very dysfunctional life, coming from a dysfunctional family and getting himself in with the wrong crowd.

"This has resulted in him spending more time in custody than in the community. He has made efforts to start to rehabilitate himself and has a job as a cleaner in custody."

Sentencing, Judge Garrett Byrne said: "It is my view that Mr Phythian and Mr McAndrew took the opportunity, and there was a degree of manipulation or persuasion. You, Portwood and Juniper, abused your position of trust as care workers providing care to prisoners.

"You have both been extremely naïve, to say the least. You knew perfectly well that these items were not permitted to be brought into prison.

"But you did it anyway, no doubt having allowed your infatuation with your co-defendants to overcome your decision making. These items are valuable currency within the prison system and can be used as instruments of extortion or power."

Turning to Juniper, the judge added: "In this case, there are two children who are assessed as extremely vulnerable and have complex needs. For those reasons, I believe that Ms Juniper's case can be distinguished and I feel able to suspend the term of imprisonment."

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