Traveller family jailed over kidnap and torture

Violet Chilton, Thomas Chilton, Edward Dolan Jr, Vanessa Frankham, Diane Evans, Jesse Frankham, Laura  Ann Dolan, Wayne Dolan, Edward Dolan Jr, Sheila Conboy, Valries Harris The group kidnapped and interrogated their victims in "scenes reminiscent of a Hollywood film"

Eleven members of the same family who kidnapped and tortured a couple they falsely accused of murdering a widow have been jailed.

The couple were subjected to severe beatings in an attempt to extract confessions to the supposed killing of Gertrude Frankham in Norfolk.

A beating was filmed in the hope it would lead to the couple's prosecution.

Police said it was the worst case of vigilantism they had known. All 11 were sentenced at Norwich Crown Court.

The attacks happened after 75-year-old Gertrude Frankham - the widow of Eli Frankham, a leading travellers' rights campaigner - was found dead in her bed in Walpole St Andrew in December 2012.

'Violence and intimidation''

Despite her body being exhumed and two post-mortem examinations finding she died of natural causes, members of her family continued to believe the pair had killed her before stealing her possessions.

Judge Stephen Holt said the group had kidnapped and interrogated their victims - who cannot be named for legal reasons - in "scenes reminiscent of a Hollywood film".

The woman was seven months pregnant at the time.

Gertrude Frankham Events were sparked by the death of Gertrude Frankham in December 2012
Wisbech church Gertrude Frankham's body was exhumed from a Wisbech cemetery in May last year

Speaking after the group were sentenced, Supt Dennis Lacey, of Norfolk Police, said: "Despite there never being any evidence of murder they decided to take the law into their own hands through violence and intimidation.

"In 27 years in the police, I have never seen anything like this in terms of the number of people involved and the seriousness of the assaults."

Six members of Mrs Frankham's family - including daughters Violet Chilton, Sheila Conboy and Valerie Harris, grandchildren and great grandchildren - were found guilty of various offences after a trial earlier this year.

Five others admitted their involvement.

Successfully gave birth

The pair were individually dragged to a warehouse and made to sit in a chair as they were surrounded and beaten, the court heard.

During the attack on the woman, Conboy called police to say she had confessed to murder.

The 999 call, which was played in court, includes the woman screaming as she was repeatedly hit in a "brutal" attack.

The male victim was told that if he went to police his family would be killed while he was forced to watch, the trial heard.

Both suffered severe injuries and the woman went into labour and successfully gave birth soon after being released from hospital.

  • Violet Chilton, 57, of St John's Fen End, was found guilty of false imprisonment and grievous bodily harm after a trial. She was ordered to serve six years.
  • Grandson, Thomas Chilton, 29, of St John's Fen End, was convicted of two counts of kidnap and two of false imprisonment. He was imprisoned for six years.
  • Great-grandson Edward Dolan Jnr, 18, of Walpole, was found guilty of kidnap and false imprisonment. He will serve 18 months in youth custody.
  • Daughter-in-law, Vanessa Frankham, 48, of Walpole St Andrew, was found guilty of kidnap, blackmail and actual bodily harm. She had previously admitted false imprisonment. She was jailed for seven years.
  • Granddaughter Diane Evans, 18, of Wisbech, was found guilty of false imprisonment. She was given 18 months in youth custody.
  • Grandson Jesse Frankham, 17, of Walpole St Andrew, was found guilty of guilty and false imprisonment. He was given an 18 month detention and training order.
  • Granddaughter Laura Ann Dolan, 37, of Sutton Bridge, had earlier pleaded guilty to kidnap, two counts of false imprisonment and two counts of unlawful wounding. She was sentenced to eight years.
  • Grandson, Wayne Dolan, 35, of Walpole St Andrew, admitted false imprisonment and unlawful wounding. He was jailed for five years.
  • Grandson Edward Dolan Snr, 38, of Walpole St Andrew, admitted kidnap, two counts of false imprisonment and wounding with intent. He was jailed for 12 years.
  • Conboy, 55, of Walpole St Andrew, pleaded guilty to two counts of false imprisonment and two of unlawful wounding. She was ordered to serve eight years.
  • Harris, 47, of Thistlebrook, Abbey Wood, south-east London, admitted false imprisonment and unlawful wounding. She was jailed for three and a half years.
Eli and Gertrude Frankham Eli and Gertrude Frankham were married for 45 years, until his death in 2000
Eli Frankham Gypsy rights campaigner Eli Frankham was also a poet and a boxer

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