Pair of 999 call handlers who plotted to burgle an elderly couple’s home are jailed


A pair of 999 police call handlers who plotted to burgle an elderly couple’s home and extort the OAP for money have been jailed for more than two years.

Freya Atkinson, 22, and Michael Young, 30, hatched the plan to carry out the burglary while working for West Yorkshire Police.

A court heard the victims were elderly relatives of Atkinson, who held a grudge against them after a row over inheritance money.

After a failed attempt to break into the couple’s home, Young made a phone call threatening to harm their disabled son unless they handed over £3,000.

Atkinson also carried out an arson attack at the couple’s home in Castleford, West Yorkshire.

The pair were both jailed for 30 months at Leeds Crown Court today. 

A court heard the victims were elderly relatives of 22-year-old Freya Atkinson (pictured above), who held a grudge against them after a row over inheritance money

A court heard the victims were elderly relatives of 22-year-old Freya Atkinson (pictured above), who held a grudge against them after a row over inheritance money

Judge Rodney Jameson QC told Atkinson: ‘This was a revenge attack. It was you getting your own back for a perceived slight or injustice over family finances.

‘In other words, you wanted to get money because you felt hard done by.

‘This was part of a campaign to persecute an elderly couple.’

Prosecutor Samuel Ponniah said both defendants were civilian employees at West Yorkshire Police when the offending took place between February and April last year.

The victims were Atkinson’s great uncle and his wife. The couple went on holiday in January last year and left their home locked and secure.

During their holiday, the victims received a phone call from family members saying that someone had tried to break into the house.

They returned to the property on February 9 to find a window had been boarded up and there were marks on the door handle.

They checked CCTV footage and saw Atkinson going into the garden. Nothing was stolen from the property but it cost £5,000 to repair the damage.

Two months later, on April 8, the couple received a call to their landline phone. The female victim answered and spoke to Young, who asked questions about her son.

Young said that her son owed him £3,000 and ‘something would happen’ to him if the money was not paid within 24 hours.

Young said to the woman he would ‘make him squirm like a little worm on the floor’. 

The defendant also made references to the previous attack on their home and the window being smashed.

The male victim then took hold of the phone and accused Young of being a coward. Further calls were made to the phone which were not answered.

Young left a voice message saying: ‘Who’s scared now, not answering your phone.’

After a failed attempt to break into the couple's home, 30-year-old Michael Young (above) made a phone call threatening to harm their disabled son unless they handed over £3,000

After a failed attempt to break into the couple’s home, 30-year-old Michael Young (above) made a phone call threatening to harm their disabled son unless they handed over £3,000

The following night the couple saw that their garden hedge was on fire, with CCTV footage showing Atkinson outside the property.

There were also burn marks to the gate. Atkinson returned to the property the next day and set fire to a bush.

Her great uncle went outside and tried to restrain her.

The prosecutor said there was a strong smell of petrol and that Atkinson kicked out at her relative, biting him on the arm.

Atkinson was arrested and found with a bottle containing petrol.

Her mobile phone was examined and text conversions between her and Young were found. 

There were references to one of them having debts of ‘a few grand’ and there was also a discussion about an empty property ‘with stuff inside’.

Mr Ponniah said the defendants made an agreement to break into the house and split the proceeds of anything over £2,000.

Atkinson, of Castleford, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary, arson and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

Young, also of Castleford, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary and blackmail.

The victims had suffered serious psychological distress as a result of the offending, the court heard.

Mr Ponniah read victim statements to the court on their behalf describing how they have turned the home into ‘fortress’ by building a six-foot high fence around their property.

They are now too afraid to leave their home unattended and no longer take holidays.

Atkinson’s great uncle said: ‘Freya was a sweet girl but on the night in question she was pure evil.’

A probation service report stated that Atkinson had shown no remorse for the offending.

James Littlehales, mitigating for Atkinson, said she had lost her job as a police call handler.

He said his client had been diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of a particularly distressing call she’d had to deal with in the course of her work.

The pair were both jailed for 30 months at Leeds Crown Court (file photo, above) today. West Yorkshire Police said Atkinson and Young were immediately suspended from their roles and have since resigned from the force

The pair were both jailed for 30 months at Leeds Crown Court (file photo, above) today. West Yorkshire Police said Atkinson and Young were immediately suspended from their roles and have since resigned from the force

Christopher Morton, for Young, said the defendant has a partner and children.

He said Young had been a soldier until being medically discharged from the Army in 2017.

Mr Morton said Young had also been diagnosed with PTSD as a result of his experiences serving in Afghanistan.

Judge Jameson said the offending was too serious to impose anything other than immediate prison sentences.

He has managed to get a job as a car salesman after being sacked by West Yorkshire Police.

He said: ‘The idea to commit the burglary was Miss Atkinson’s, but each of you was involved jointly thereafter in the plan being executed.’

West Yorkshire Police said Atkinson and Young were immediately suspended from their roles and have since resigned from the force.

After the case, Detective Superintendent Mark Long, of West Yorkshire Police’s Professional Standards Directorate, said: ‘Atkinson and Young have been responsible for a sustained campaign against an older male victim who is known to them, designed to cause fear and ultimately obtain money from him.

‘There are expected standards that all police employees are expected to comply with, whether on or off duty, and their actions fell well beneath these; and to be quite frank what would be expected of any right thinking member of the public.

‘I hope the sentences handed down today show that we will, and do, take action against employees and former employees.

‘The vast majority of our officers, staff and volunteers act with the highest integrity and are sadly let down by individuals such as Atkinson and Young.’



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