West Norfolk family jailed over kidnap continue to have concerns over death of relative

The cemetery in Wisbech where Gertrude Frankham was buried. The cemetery in Wisbech where Gertrude Frankham was buried.

Friday, April 4, 2014
11:48 AM

The Frankhams and their extended family, which stretches across the Fens, were people with whom you did not mess.

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The roll of dishonour: All the charges and sentences

Violet Chilton, 57, of Rands Terrace, Dades Lane, St John’s Fen End, was found guilty of false imprisonment and assault occasioning grievous bodily harm and sentenced to six years. Thomas Buxton, mitigating, said she played a “peripheral role”.

Thomas Chilton, 29, Rands Terrace, Dades Lane, St John’s Fen End, was found guilty of two counts of kidnap and two counts of false imprisonment and sentenced to six years. Mark Tomassi said he tried to intervene to prevent worse happening to the female victim.

Edward Dolan Jr, 18, of Walpole, was found guilty of kidnap and false imprisonment and sentenced to 18 months’ custody. Greg Perrins said he was only 17 at the time and had no previous convictions.

Vanessa Frankham, 48, of Wisbech Road, Walpole St Andrew, was found guilty of kidnap, blackmail and assault occasioning grievous bodily harm. She previously admitted false imprisonment and was given seven years. William Carter said: “She is ashamed at the way she behaved.”

Diane Evans, 18, of Cherry Road, Wisbech, was found guilty of false imprisonment and sentenced to 18 months’ custody. Thomas Brown said she did not have any involvement in any violence.

Jesse Frankham, 17, of Wisbech Road, Walpole St Andrew, was found guilty of kidnap and false imprisonment and sentenced to an 18-month detention and training order. Andrew Shaw said: “He played a minor part.”

Laura Ann Dolan, 37, of Two Sisters Close, Sutton Bridge, admitted kidnap, two counts of false imprisonment and two of unlawful wounding. She was sentenced to eight years. Philip Farr said her best mitigation was her pleas which “took a degree of courage” given the gravity of the offences.

Wayne Dolan, 35, of Walpole Marsh, Walpole St Andrew, admitted false imprisonment and unlawful wounding. He was sentenced to five years. Claire Davies said his “main mitigation was his pleas of guilty”.

Edward Dolan Sr, pictured, 38, of Walpole Marsh, Walpole St Andrew, admitted kidnap, two counts of false imprisonment and wounding with intent. He got 12 years. Jeremy Lynn said he had “no history at all of violence of this scale and gravity”.

Sheila Conboy, 55, of Walpole Marsh, Walpole St Andrew, admitted two counts of false imprisonment and two counts of unlawful wounding. She was sentenced to eight years. Andrew Shaw said, having lost her mother, she “found herself in an emotionally less stable position”.

Valerie Harris, 47, of Thistlebrook, London, admitted false imprisonment and unlawful wounding. She was sentenced to three-and-a-half years. Hugh Vass said she had believed “they were on the side of the angels” in trying to get a confession.

Those who crossed them could expect a good beating, the court was told.

Judge Stephen Holt said: “The victim was warned that others had crossed your family and had ended up severely beaten or dead. Whether these were boasts or truths we will never know.”

He added he was grateful for the respect the defendants had shown to the court and asked them to continue before he started to sentence them.

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When Romany rights campaigner, singer and poet Eli Frankham passed away in 2000, the family underwent a sea change.

Eli Jnr, Vanessa Frankham’s husband, became its new patriarch out at Walpole St Andrew, between Wisbech and King’s Lynn.

When he died of a suspected heart attack, at the age of 44, in 2007, he was about to be sentenced for breaching an Asbo imposed for harassing the headteacher of Walpole St Andrew School.

Eli Snr learned to box in fairground booths and went on to turn pro. Eli Jnr was a bare-knuckle fighter.

He was survived by his wife Vanessa, among those to be sentenced yesterday and whose previous convictions include ABH and harassment.

Eddie Dolan Snr, who hatched the kidnap plan, had 23 convictions, spanning 80 offences.

By the age of 17, Jesse Frankham had notched up six convictions for battery and one for affray.

Before they were sent down, the family members issued a statement: “Family members have been sentenced here today for taking the law into their own hands as they felt the police never took their concerns serious enough.

“During the family’s recent trial, new evidence and information has come to light. It not only concerns the death of Mrs Gertrude Frankham but also events leading up to and after her death.

“Today is the beginning of our campaign for justice for Gert Frankham.”

Members of the family outside court said they continued to have serious concerns over the death of Gertie and had had a second post-mortem examination carried out, which had raised doubts over her death.

They said they were a strong family and would not give up their campaign for further investigation into her death.

People in Walpole St Andrew yesterday said that they had not paid much attention to the case.

One woman, who did not wish to be named, said: “I have not been following the case and I don’t know enough about it to comment.”

There are several new properties in the village, and the Frankhams are, perhaps, not as well known among the newcomers.

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