Besotted prison officer, 25, plotted to smuggle steroids into jail

Besotted prison officer, 25, plotted to smuggle steroids into jail in secret nine-month romance with crack cocaine dealer who set up drugs racket from his cell

  • Sally McGrath, 25, agreed to sneak bodybuilding drug into jail for Ashley Keany
  • 32-year-old jailed for selling crack in the north-West including to young mothers
  • Infatuated McGrath agreed to take steroids and tobacco into prison for him
  • She also sexted the inmate and declared her love for him sent to his illegal phone
  • Judge spared her jail saying career criminal ‘groomed’ her so he could use her 

A prison officer who became infatuated with an inmate agreed to help him smuggle steroids and tobacco into jail so he could run a drugs racket from his cell.

Sally McGrath, 25, agreed to sneak the bodybuilding drug into the jail after she began a secret nine-month romance with convicted crack cocaine dealer Ashley Keany.

The operations instructor at Category B Garth Prison near Leyland, Lancashire, also sent 32-year-old Keany, who was jailed for eight years in 2015, explicit pictures of herself which he kept in his cell.

She also swapped romantic texts with him, declaring her love for the convicted drug dealer, after he illegally acquired a mobile phone. 

One message McGrath sent to Keany, which revealed the plot, read: ‘Ok babes, I’m going now, love to you. I have been feeling reluctant about bringing the steds [steroids] home for him. How much money am I taking?’ 

Police uncovered the racket after McGrath was found smuggling illegal tobacco into the 900 inmate prison during a search by prison colleagues.

Sally McGrath, 25, fell in love with inmate Ashley Keany and agreed to smuggle in steroids for him into prison

Keany has had 42 months added to his sentence for selling steroids to fellow inmates during his nine-month relationship with the prison officer

Officers raided her home and found cylinder packages containing Testosterone propionate in her bedroom, along with £1,700 cash in £50 notes and a number of mobile phones which proved she was in contact with Keany – who was serving eight years for conspiracy to supply crack.

A diary was found in Keany’s cell containing her bank details and statements showed multiple amounts being deposited into and withdrawn from her account under the reference ‘AK’.

In a statement McGrath said: ‘I have let myself and others down. Looking back I put myself and my work colleagues in danger and I didn’t think about the effect on them. I am full of regret for what I have done.’

Today McGrath’s career in the Prison Service is in ruins after she was given 21 month sentence suspended for two years having pleaded guilty to smuggling charges. 

McGrath, pictured arriving at Burnley Crown Court, was hiding drugs and cash in her bedroom at home in Preston

Keany – now moved to Doncaster Prison – admitted similar charges and was jailed for another 42 months.

Burnley Crown Court was told the discovery of the racket emerged when McGrath, of Longton, Preston was searched as she arrived for work on November 29 2017. 

Prosecutor Peter Barr said: ‘She had wraps of cylinder shaped items in her coat pocket which contained tobacco which is a prohibited item and a search was conducted at her home address.

‘In her bedroom there were further wraps containing tobacco as well as two 60ml cylinder shaped packages containing testosterone propionate. Also found in her bedroom was £1,700 in cash. This was described as being in high denominations, namely £50 notes.

‘Also found was a love letter addressed to Keany, which included his prisoner identification number. A number of mobile phones were seized from her possession. Messages and photographs indicated that she was in a relationship with Keany. The texts identified that both of them made an arrangement for items to be brought into prison, and that there would be payment for those items.

‘An expert police drugs officer who examined the phones helped to establish the different colloquial terms used on the text messages. He said there was a conversation where McGrath said: ‘Ok babes, I’m going now, love to you. I have been feeling reluctant about bringing the steds home for him. Another message read: ‘How much money am I taking?’

‘The officer said ‘steds’ is a reference to ‘steroids’. In another message, Keany said: ‘Yee how big is them steds?’ and McGrath replied: ‘Two little bottles of Bio Oil, not big’. 

The officer assumed this meant the liquid was the size of a bottle of Bio Oil. As a result of the search on McGrath’s address, a search was also conducted at Keany’s cell in prison.

‘A number of explicit photos of McGrath were found as well as a diary which included a bank account number and sort code of her bank account. Officers made enquires to obtain the bank details and statements held by McGrath.

The bodybuilder, pictured in his cell, was dealing drugs inside Category B Garth Prison near Leyland, Lancashire

Keany (pictured) was already in prison for dealing crack cocaine when he was caught dealing again

‘Two platinum accounts as well as an Instant Saver bank account were discovered. These statements identify themselves as there are a number of deposits and withdrawals with no legitimate explanation to explain them. The references were made out as ‘AK’. There were a significant amount of withdrawals and deposits.

McGrath’s career in the Prison Service is in ruins after she was given 21 month jail sentence, suspended for two years

‘Officers involved in the mobile phone extraction also found another mobile phone in McGraths’s car which was parked in the car park. These messages between them were saved on her phone as ‘Ash 2’ and these messages showed a relationship between them and an arrangement for a transfer of steroids in prison.

‘Her involvement was through peer pressure or influence. There was an abuse of her position of trust in her employment in the prison service. It is impossible to say what the underlying offence was and what the money was going to be used for.’

Keany had 85 offences on his record. He had been a leading member of a gang which supplied heroin and crack cocaine from the banks of the River Ribble at the Avenham Park in Preston in 2013. 

He and ten others were jailed for as total of 80 years in 2015 after police secretly filming drug deals taking place in broad daylight, with one woman buying crack as she wheeled a young child in a pushchair.

Officers discovered a loaded firm hidden in the base of a tree.

In mitigation for McGrath, who now works as a lorry driver, defence lawyer Nina Graham QC said: ‘She was a young woman in confusion and she was reluctant to believe his overtures to her were not genuine. She had a naive attitude towards him and she did not want to get him into any trouble. Her role was that she did what she was asked and she was someone who was misguided by the emotional pressures she was under.

‘The money going through her account was also coming out, it was not going to her. She was a conduit. Her benefit was not financial but she thought it was emotional. She was a very young, immature and vulnerable young woman.

Miss Graham added: ‘She had been in an abusive relationship and she had very little training. She was an operations instructor, somebody who supervises workshop activities. She had very little support, low rated pay, and she would be in a room with several inmates, she tells me one time there were 30, four of which were serving time for murder.

‘She was encouraged by one of the offenders, who didn’t come across as violent, this defendant was polite, kind and caring of her. She fell hook, line and sinker for it, whether it was genuine or not is not for me to say.

‘She relied on that as a crutch throughout her difficulties of her job and her personal difficulties. At the very least it must have been clear to any inmate or staff member that this was not robust. She was targeted and she succumbed. She was unsupported, scared, manipulated and emotionally tied.

‘She decided she met the love of her life and started thinking about the future. What was in her mind was an idealised fantastical relationship. She had dreams of their future together spending time together walking a dog, and sat in the sofa drinking tea. She accepts she was foolish.’

In mitigation for Keany, Sharon Watson said: ‘He accepts he manipulated and used Miss McGrath to his own advantage but he did have genuine feelings for her. They were looking to build a future together and buy a house and she had been asking him if he was saving money.

‘He is clear that he is deeply sorry and ashamed for the position she finds herself in. He accepts he is central to her downfall and he regrets that very much.’

McGrath became infatuated with the prisoners inside Garth Prison in Lancashire – Keany has now been moved to Doncaster jail

Sentencing Judge Sara Dodd said: ‘You both played a leading role but Ashley Keany you expected sufficient financial gain. Drugs are a valuable commodity in prison and that will have been known to you.

‘There is no doubt you were the driving force behind the offences. You used and manipulated Miss McGrath as you requested her to bring prohibited items into prison, you called it “blagging her”. She was particularly vulnerable. Sally McGrath, you did what you did out of infatuation. You were, in fact, groomed.’

McGrath was also ordered to complete 240 hours unpaid work.


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