Friends jailed for helping murderer “stay at large”

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Two friends who helped a Boston man “stay at large” after he murdered a Holbeach factory worker were today (Mon) jailed at Lincoln Crown Court.

Natisha Nodder (37), was jailed for 18 months after she admitted helping to arrange a lift for her on-off boyfriend Stephen Sleaford (39), after he stabbed Janusz Smoderek (48) to death in Sleaford Road, Boston.

Another one of Sleaford’s friends, Stephen Ebbutt (44), of Ingelow Avenue, Boston, was sentenced to 30 months imprisonment after he admitted driving Sleaford to Newcastle and letting him stay at his static caravan after the murder.

Sleaford was jailed for 23 years last week after a jury found him guilty of murdering Mr Smoderek, who worked as a flower packer at Intergreen in Holbeach, at around 4.30am on 11 September 2011.

The jury heard Sleaford fled to Miss Nodder’s home in Skirbeck Road, Boston, after the murder. He then went on the run for 11 days – travelling first to his aunt’s home in Newcastle and then back to a number of addresses in Lincolnshire before he was arrested at a former girlfriend’s flat in Barnsley, South Yorkshire.

Sheri Buckley (27), from Barnsley, was jailed for 21 months in April last year after she also admitted helping Sleaford. All three defendants admitted perverting the course of justice in helping Sleaford stay at large.

The court heard Sleaford told Miss Nodder he had been involved in a stabbing but she did not believe him and helped arrange a lift for him by getting in contact with Ebbutt. She also deleted text messages from Sleaford at his request.

Sleaford left Miss Nodder’s home in a taxi at 11.45am on the day of the murder and by early evening was heading north in Ebbutt’s flat bed truck. The court heard Sleaford stayed at his aunt’s home for three days before returning to Grantham by train where he was again picked up by Ebbutt.

CCTV showed Ebbutt picking Sleaford up from Grantham railway station before taking him to his static caravan in Tattershall where he stayed before moving on to addresses in Gosberton and Barnsley.

During Sleaford’s time on the run the public were warned not to approach him because of a previous 11-year jail sentence for shooting a man with a shotgun.

Tim Spencer, QC, prosecuting, said the nationwide operation to catch Sleaford used “considerable resources”.

“This was a large operation at some cost to the taxpayer. Four police forces were involved and because of Sleaford’s previous shotgun conviction a specialist firearms team had to be mobilised,” Mr Spencer said.

Edna Leonard, mitigating for Miss Nodder who had no previous convictions, said at the time of the murder Sleaford was coming and going from her property as he pleased and their relationship was over.

Neil Sands, mitigating for Ebbutt, said he did not know what Sleaford had done when he drove him to Newcastle and now wished he had told him: “No.”

Passing sentence Judge Michael Heath told Nodder: “On September 11, Stephen Sleaford murdered Janusz Smoderek by stabbing him. You then helped arrange for Sleaford to be moved to Newcastle.”

Judge Heath told Ebbutt: “You are an associate of Stephen Sleaford, you knew the sort of man he was.”