Inmate walked out of open jail ‘due to fears he would be killed by Muslim prisoners’

Ross Underwood
Ross Underwood

A robber who walked out of an open prison 18 months into a seven-year custodial sentence said he had to get out of jail because he “feared for his life”.

Ross Underwood, aged 30, absconded from HMP Springhill at Grendon Underwood on Sunday May 24, and was found in a flat in Burton Latimer in Northamptonshire on June 2.

Northampton Crown Court heard Underwood was given a seven year and four-month prison sentence in November 2013 and was initially placed in HMP Woodhill in Milton Keynes.

Jonathan Dee, prosecuting, said Underwood was moved to the open prison in May 15 this year.

However, at the 12.30pm role call on May 24, Underwood was not present and, after more than a week on the run, he was tracked to a flat in Burton Latimer.

Mr Dee said Underwood gave officers a false name before bolting the front door and attempting to run away via the rear exit. He was eventually caught and subdued after an officers brought out a taser.

Mr Dee said: “He was screaming and was very insistent that he did not want to go back to prison.”

In police interview, Underwood said he was being “picked on” by a group of Muslim prisoners and said he had been attacked with a blade in the shower room of the prison.

Nick De Freitas, mitigating, said his client had been targeted by a group of Muslim inmates in Woodhill who blamed him for a robbery.

Mr De Freitas said that, when he was moved to Springhill, a couple of Muslim inmates recognised Underwood and then tried to attack him in the shower with a makeshift blade.

He said: “He felt he had no choice as he felt his life was in danger. He knows he should not have left but he had a genuine fear for his safety.”

Underwood was sentenced to seven years and four months in jail in November 2013 after he was convicted of conspiracy to rob.

The court heard that Underwood had a previous conviction for absconding from the same prison in 2009. In July 2009, the Chronicle & Echo reported that he walked out of the prison to settle an argument with his girlfriend in Northampton.

Judge Michael Fowler sentenced Underwood, of Leeds, to an extra six months in prison, consecutive to his existing sentence.