x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Millionaire's daughter convicted of looting during London riots

Laura Johnson, a 20-year-old student at the University of Exeter, was convicted of one charge of burglary and one of handling stolen goods.

LONDON // A millionaire's daughter could be jailed after being convicted yesterday of looting during last summer's riots in London.

Laura Johnson, a 20-year-old student at the University of Exeter, was convicted of one charge of burglary and one of handling stolen goods. She was caught driving three youths around south London shopping malls late at night last August during the riots.

Her father, Robert, runs his own marketing company, Avongate, in addition to holding several directorships.

Laura Johnson originally told police a group of three young black men, their heads covered in hoodies, bandanas and balaclavas, had jumped into her car and threatened to force her to drive them during their looting spree.

It later transpired, however, that Johnson was a friend of one of the three: convicted cocaine dealer and thief Emmanuel Okubote, 20. The two had struck up a close relationship, the eight-day trial heard, after meeting at a mental health unit where Johnson was receiving outpatient care after attempting suicide.

Although she claimed to have played no part in the looting, a witness told the court he had seen her load into her car a TV set stolen from an electrical store in a south London mall.

In addition to joining the looting that broke out across London and then spread to other cities and towns, the three passengers in Johnson's car robbed people at knifepoint, the jury at Inner London Crown Court was told.

Johnson was convicted alongside a 17-year-old boy, the youngest occupant of her car, who had stolen alcohol and cigarettes from a petrol station that Johnson had driven him to.

Judge Patricia Lees told them: "You have both been convicted of serious offences. These are aggravated by the fact that they were conducted in the timeframe of serious civil unrest in London last summer.

"This spree of burglaries and handling stolen goods which you both were willing participants in will attract, in my mind, the likelihood of an immediate custodial sentence."

The pair will be sentenced on May 3 along with Alexander Elliott-Joahill, 18, who was a passenger in Johnson's car and who has pleaded guilty to burglary and handling stolen goods. Okubote is in prison for drugs offences and has yet to be tried in connection with the looting.

Mr Johnson said his daughter was considering an appeal.

dsapsted@thenational.ae