A CONVICTED robber serving an indefinite sentence walked out of prison following the evening roll-call to carry out an armed burglary at a terrified couple’s Coventry home.
Lee Middleton was then believed to be heading back to his cell at HMP Hewell near Redditch when he was caught after driving a powerful car stolen in the burglary the wrong way along the M42.
Prison staff did not know Middleton, who was said to have left his bed with two pillows in it, had gone until the police called to tell them of his arrest.
Warwick Crown Court heard that at the time Middleton, who was serving an indeterminate sentence for conspiracy to rob, was just days from a review which could have led to his release.
But now he is starting fresh sentences totalling 11-and-a-half years – of which he will have to do half before the Parole Board can again consider his release from the indeterminate term.
Middleton, 32 and previously of Harry Rose Road in Coventry, had pleaded guilty to escaping from custody, aggravated burglary and dangerous driving.
Prosecutor Lal Amarasinghe said that in 2007 Middleton was given in indeterminate sentence for the public protection for a series of robberies of commercial premises and cash in transit.
Earlier this year he was serving the latter part of that sentence, subject to the Parole Board agreeing to his release, and was in an open section of HMP Hewell.
On June 18 he was present for a roll-call at 9.30pm – but by 11.40 that night he and another man were carrying out their terrifying burglary 36 miles away.
Judge Sylvia de Bertodano said: “There must have been planning to the extent that someone must have met him to take him there.”
Matthew Grove and Danielle Ismay were in their first floor flat in Holbrook Lane, Holbrooks, Coventry, when Middleton and another man smashed their way in shouting ‘it’s the police.’
Wearing masks, and with Middleton wearing a knuckleduster and carrying a house brick while his accomplice had a long knife, they charged into the living room where one of them demanded: “Where’s the keys; where’s the keys?”
As Miss Ismay pleaded with them not to hurt them, the two intruders demanded the couple’s phones and the keys to Mr Grove’s £10,000 Audi A3 Sport which was parked outside.
The other man went to search for the keys, and Middleton threatened Mr Grove: “Don’t move or I’ll smash your skull in.”
The couple handed over their phones, which were later thrown away outside, and the intruders ran out after grabbing the car keys and searching Miss Ismay’s handbag for cash.
Christine Luckock, defending, said: “To some degree he was frightened about his release into the outside world, where previously he has been bullied.
“It was fear of being released as well as some bitterness and resentment that he had not already been released.”
“He says he is not responsible for putting the pillows in his bed.”
After giving him credit for his pleas, Judge de Bertodano jailed Middleton for nine years and four months for the burglary, with consecutive sentences of 12 months for his escape and 14 months for the dangerous driving.