Bognor Regis couple jailed for neglect and abuse of vulnerable man
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A Bognor Regis couple who neglected, abused and exploited a vulnerable man – who was the husband of one of the accused – have been jailed.
Sarah Somerset-How, 49, of Aldwick Road, conspired with her husband’s carer, 40-year-old George Webb, of Flansham Lane, to leave their victim bedbound and malnourished while they took advantage of him for their own gains.
At Portsmouth Crown Court today (14 July), they were both jailed for 11 years.
Webb was originally hired as a live-in carer for Somerset-How’s 40-year-old husband, Tom, who required round-the-clock care, in 2016.
Over the next four years, Tom was physically and psychologically abused, left without sufficient food and drink and forced to live in squalid conditions.
Tom was left bedbound
Somerset-How took out loans in Tom’s name, leaving him in significant financial difficulty.
He was separated from his family, who reported the situation to the police in August, 2020, after he revealed the horrific circumstances in which he was living to a friend.
He was moved to safe accommodation while an investigation was launched.
Texts from the defendants’ mobile phones showed they had become involved in a sexual relationship and intentionally neglected their victim to take drugs and plan nights away.
Tom was completely neglected
Webb was subsequently arrested and charged with wilful neglect as a care worker, holding a person in slavery/servitude, causing actual bodily harm, fraud by false representation and theft.
Somerset-How was also charged with wilful neglect as a care worker, holding a person in slavery/servitude, fraud by false representation and theft.
At Portsmouth Crown Court on Friday, 12 May, both were found guilty of wilful neglect and holding a person in slavery/servitude.
Webb was also found guilty of causing actual bodily harm.
Somerset-How and Webb were found not guilty of fraud by false representation and theft.
Detective Constable Cheyne Garrett said: “Sarah Somerset-How and George Webb’s crimes were appalling.
“They betrayed the trust of an innocent, vulnerable man who relied on them both for the most basic human needs.
“Tom has shown incredible bravery by supporting this challenging investigation through to prosecution.
“This result would also not have been possible without the quick-thinking of Tom’s friend to raise the alarm and his family, who reported their concerns.
“I hope this sentence provides Tom with some level of closure as he rebuilds his life.
“It also shows the importance of reporting any concerns or suspicions. If you feel something is not right, contact police online, via 101 or by calling 999 in an emergency.”
In a victim impact statement submitted to the court, Tom said:
“When I was first interviewed by police, I explained that I felt like I was just being kept alive. For a long time laying in that room I think I really did not wish to accept that was the case. When it really started to sink in, that this was my life, I decided I wanted to end it all, but ridiculously, I couldn't even manage that myself!
“Hearing in court that there was a five-year plan between them and the intention was to just use me has been a double blow. Firstly, acknowledging that Sarah had no intention for things to change, with a plan for me to live like that for as long as necessary. Secondly, now how very little they both thought of me in that time, my wife and carer despised me so much.
“I will always need help and support throughout my life from others, I honestly do not imagine how I will ever trust someone again.
“I still can't sleep properly, and it's rare for me to get a full night's sleep. I believe that this is due to the psychological after effects of the circumstances I was put through. I still have to sleep with the lights on. on average I sleep four hours a night, which is hugely detrimental to my mental and physical well-being, sometimes it's as low as two hours.
“My brain won't switch off. When I was there, I didn't feel safe and relaxed enough to sleep, this feeling hasn't gone away, it's like my brain has been trained that way now, as this was my life for four years.
“I'm so grateful to the jury, for their time over this long court case. When I heard their verdict read out, knowing that this process has all been worthwhile was a weight off my shoulders.
“I'm now determined to use this horrendous time in my life for good, to raise awareness if I can.
"It is important for people to read about my case. If it maybe makes someone think about the family member they haven’t seen or spoken to directly for a while. If it perhaps explains how it’s possible to miss when things aren’t quite as they seem. That sometimes a relationship that was happy and thriving can go very wrong and people don’t want to speak up or ask for help.
“I can honestly say that I may never have been able to reach out for help, until [NAME REDACTED] intervened that day. I will always be grateful that she gave me the strength to ask for help and supported me to take that first step; that I had not offended my family and they were just waiting to hear from me that I wasn’t okay.
“I would like to use this platform to help others and be positive moving forward.”