Swansea men jailed for trying to rob student while threatening her with hammer

Benjamin McConway (left) and Ashley Morrison were sentenced at Swansea Crown Court. Credit: Media Wales

Two men drove around Swansea in the early hours looking for someone to rob before targeting a lone female student and threatening her with a hammer, a court has heard.

Ashley Morrison and Benjamin McConway had already picked up a sex worker on 18 January this year with the intention of robbing her before deciding against their initial plan.

Instead they spotted their victim as she made her way back to her student accommodation, McConway jumped out of the car from the passenger seat and shouted for her to empty her purse while raising a claw hammer above his head.

Swansea Crown Court heard the woman, who was on the phone to her boyfriend at the time, put the bags and luggage she was carrying between herself and McConway. She said she was on the phone before holding up the mobile and telling the defendant he was on camera.

McConway, who was wearing a hood over his head and a snood to hide the bottom half of his face, jumped back into the car and the two men left the scene.

The woman returned to her student accommodation and reported the incident to the night warden, later alerting the police.

Details of the car were circulated to officers and it was found in the Clase area of the city a few days later, on 21 January, after which it was taken away for forensic tests.

The court heard Morrison contacted police on the morning the car was recovered and reported it had been stolen. It was registered to his partner.

McConway was arrested two days later and subsequently made a full admission to police he and Morrison had spent the night of the attempted robbery playing darts and drinking at a local pub. They then went home, where they continued to drink and took cocaine.

He told police it was Morrison who first suggested they should "mug" someone for the money to buy more drugs. McConway said they later went out in the car "looking for someone to rob."

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In a statement read to the court by prosecutor James Hartson, the victim said the incident initially left her feeling frightened and anxious, but she later became angry and questioned why it happened to her.

She added she would not let the experience "break" her or change her opinion of Swansea, where she had come to study medicine.

In the statement, the victim added she forgave the defendants, hoping they would spend their time in prison to reflect on their behaviour, and said she wanted to be a doctor help people and contribute to society.

She said she thought the men targeted her because they saw her as an easy and vulnerable target.

The judge contrasted the victim's bravery and resolute character with the "cowardly and bullying" defendants in the dock.

Ashley Morrison, aged 38, of Mysydd Road, Landore, Swansea, and 32-year-old Benjamin McConway, of Robert Street, Manselton, Swansea, both previously pleaded guilty to attempted robbery when they appeared in the dock for sentencing. McConway had also previously pleaded guilty to possession of an offensive weapon.

Defending Morrison, who has four previous convictions, Dan Griffiths said his client has depression and a diagnosis of emotionally unstable personality disorder. Mr Griffiths said those issues were worsened by "harmful levels" of alcohol and cocaine use.

He said Morrison seemed genuinely motivated to use the time he would inevitably spend in prison productively.

Defending McConway, who has no previous convictions, Andrew Evans said he had held down a responsible job until his cocaine use became an issue, adding demotion at work and the end of a relationship had caused his life to go on a "downward trajectory."

Mr Evans said his client had reflected on his behaviour whilst on remand and hoped to "salvage something" from the damage caused to his own life and others lives too.

Judge Huw Rees said a number of aggravating factors meant the appropriate sentence would be five years in prison. He reduced it to 54 months due to the fact it was an attempted robbery, as well as minimising the sentence by a third to account for the defendants' guilty pleas.

In total Morrison and McConway will both serve three years in prison, spending up to half of it in custody before being released on licence to serve the rest in the community.

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