A couple from Bognor Regis have been sentenced to 11 years in prison for neglecting, abusing, and exploiting a vulnerable man. Sarah Somerset-How, 49, and George Webb, 40, conspired to leave their victim bedbound and malnourished while taking advantage of him for their own gains.
Webb was originally hired as a live-in carer for Somerset-How’s 40-year-old husband, Tom, who required round-the-clock care. Over the next four years, Tom was physically and psychologically abused, left without sufficient food and drink, and forced to live in squalid conditions. Somerset-How took out loans in Tom’s name, leaving him in significant financial difficulty.
Tom was separated from his family, who reported the situation to the police after he revealed the horrific circumstances in which he was living to a friend. He was moved to safe accommodation while an investigation was launched.
Texts from the defendants’ mobile phones showed they had become involved in a sexual relationship and intentionally neglected their victim to take drugs and plan nights away. Webb was subsequently arrested and charged with wilful neglect as a care worker, holding a person in slavery/servitude, causing actual bodily harm, fraud by false representation, and theft. Somerset-How was also charged with wilful neglect as a care worker, holding a person in slavery/servitude, fraud by false representation, and theft.
At Portsmouth Crown Court on Friday, 12 May, both were found guilty of wilful neglect and holding a person in slavery/servitude. Webb was also found guilty of causing actual bodily harm. Somerset-How and Webb were found not guilty of fraud by false representation and theft.
Detective Constable Cheyne Garrett said: “Sarah Somerset-How and George Webb’s crimes were appalling. They betrayed the trust of an innocent, vulnerable man who relied on them both for the most basic human needs. Tom has shown incredible bravery by supporting this challenging investigation through to prosecution.”
In a victim impact statement submitted to the court, Tom said: “When I was first interviewed by police, I explained that I felt like I was just being kept alive…I will always need help and support throughout my life from others, I honestly do not imagine how I will ever trust someone again.”
“I still can’t sleep properly, and it’s rare for me to get a full night’s sleep. I believe that this is due to the psychological after effects of the circumstances I was put through. I still have to sleep with the lights on. on average I sleep four hours a night, which is hugely detrimental to my mental and physical well-being, sometimes it’s as low as two hours.
“My brain won’t switch off. When I was there, I didn’t feel safe and relaxed enough to sleep, this feeling hasn’t gone away, it’s like my brain has been trained that way now, as this was my life for four years.
“I’m so grateful to the jury, for their time over this long court case. When I heard their verdict read out, knowing that this process has all been worthwhile was a weight off my shoulders.
“I’m now determined to use this horrendous time in my life for good, to raise awareness if I can.
“It is important for people to read about my case. If it maybe makes someone think about the family member they haven’t seen or spoken to directly for a while. If it perhaps explains how it’s possible to miss when things aren’t quite as they seem. That sometimes a relationship that was happy and thriving can go very wrong and people don’t want to speak up or ask for help.
“I can honestly say that I may never have been able to reach out for help, until [NAME REDACTED] intervened that day. I will always be grateful that she gave me the strength to ask for help and supported me to take that first step; that I had not offended my family and they were just waiting to hear from me that I wasn’t okay.
“I would like to use this platform to help others and be positive moving forward.”