Conspiracy to silence domestic violence victim ends in conviction

02/12/2016

A Derbyshire man who attempted to murder a young woman, as well as a group of associates he involved in his campaign to silence her, have been convicted of a series of offences for their part in conspiracies to commit offences against her.

In February 2015, Christopher Magee subjected his victim to a brutal and sustained attack, leaving her in intensive care. He was charged with attempted murder and additional charges of violence and criminal damage which pre-dated this offence and he was remanded in custody. While in custody, he tried to discourage her giving evidence against him, by sending her intimidating correspondence.

When his attempts did not work, Magee turned to an acquaintance Zackree Williams to try emotional and financial blackmail. He then conspired with a fellow prisoner, Martin Clarke, to recruit associates to plan further attacks. Initially, his aim was for the victim to be attacked with acid in order to disfigure her. His new partner at the time, Sara Bennett, researched this for him. When he felt that would not send out a strong enough message, he orchestrated a plan to set fire to her house.  Clarke helped to organise a group consisting of Michael Holmes, Liam Curtis and Robert Wyatt to carry out this instruction. Bennett provided them with the victims postcode.  

On the night of the 13 July 2015, Wyatt and Curtis drove to the victim's house and used petrol to set fire to the front door. The victim and her family were present. Fortunately, due to safety measures the police had previously put in place, the fire did not take hold.

Michelle Mannion, District Crown Prosecutor and a domestic violence specialist at CPS East Midlands said: "Christopher Magee is a prolific domestic violence offender and poses a high risk to women. This is demonstrated by his criminal record and the level of violence used against this victim, in addition to the obsessive level of his campaign against her. He has conspired in prison, illegally using mobile phones to plan the attacks, joined forces with Clarke and between them got their accomplices to conduct his dirty work. Magee was fixated with stopping the victim giving evidence and continuing with her complaint and it was clear he would stop at nothing to achieve this aim.

"All the defendants tried to deny that they knew each other, so they thought the attack would not be traced back to Magee. They continued with these lies in court, but on the evidence obtained by the police, the link between them was clear and compelling. This evidence unmasked the whole conspiracy and linked the attack with Magee's attempts to get away with his original crime.

"They believed that they had covered their tracks, but they left a trail of communication that provided undeniable evidence of who was behind this attack and the level of violence to which he was prepared to go. Once we had that evidence, the prosecution was able to join the conspiracy charges to Magee's attempted murder of the victim, to bring a case that reflected the full level of his and their criminality.

"At a previous hearing conducted in December 2015, Magee's defence team had suggested that he would be willing to plead guilty to a lesser charge of causing grievous bodily harm with intent. After consulting the victim and taking into account her views, together with the seriousness of the incident and Magee's previous convictions, this was firmly rejected by the prosecution.

"At the centre of this case is a victim whose life has been significantly affected as a result of her association with Christopher Magee. The police were rigorous in their investigation and we worked tirelessly together to ensure that he and the co-accused were brought to justice. I hope that Magee's eventual guilty pleas in the face of overwhelming evidence against him and his subsequent sentence will be of some help to her in recovering from her ordeal."

Background information:
Christopher Magee carried out his attack on the victim in February 2015. While on remand, he attempted to persuade her to retract her allegations, first by letter, then threats. He then engaged Williams to try emotional blackmail.

When that did not work, he conspired with Clarke in prison and engaged Holmes to plan an acid attack to disfigure the victim. Not content with this, he formed a second plan for Holmes, Wyatt and Curtis to set fire to the house. His communications with them were encouraging them to be heartless in other words to cause maximum harm, if not kill.

The group carrying out the attack drove to the victim's house from Grantham. Their mobile phone movements were tracked and they were recorded by CCTV passing by the house a number of times.

Despite taking what they thought were enough precautions, detectives were able to retrieve not only evidence that they had been in contact with Magee and Clarke throughout, but what they had said to each other, revealing the full nature of the offences for the jury.

Christopher Magee pleaded guilty to attempted murder for the attack on the victim and criminal damage, assault occasioning actual bodily harm and common assault for other episodes of violence against her. He also pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice for his attempts to get Williams to silence her.

Zackree Williams pleaded guilty to perverting the cause of justice and unauthorised transmission from an electronic device for communicating with Magee when he was in prison and attempting to silence the victim.

Martin Clarke was found guilty of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm with intent for planning the acid attack and conspiracy to commit arson with intent to endanger life for planning the attack on the victim's house.

Sara Bennett was convicted of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm with intent for planning the acid attack.

Michael Holmes was found guilty of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm with intent for planning the acid attack and conspiracy to commit arson with intent to endanger life for the attack on the house.

Liam Curtis and Robert Wyatt were found guilty of conspiracy to commit arson with intent to endanger life for the attack on the victim's house.