Men were drugged and sexually assaulted in Cotswolds

Oxford Mail: Luiz da Silva NetoLuiz da Silva Neto

‘Sexual predator’ Luiz da Silva Neto had denied drugging and sexually assaulting two men in consecutive months at a cottage in Middle Barton last winter.

But jurors convicted him of assaulting the men, both of whom were married and had gone to the Cotswolds cottage with the 36-year-old for different reasons.

At his trial, the Brazilian-born man claimed that the encounters were consensual. He admitted being a regular user of drugs, including GHB, and participated in casual sex with men.

You can read our feature article about the case here.

He was jailed for 22 years by Judge Michael Gledhill QC at the start of the month. The judge told him: “You chose to take these drugs and you did precious little about it and you became a sexual predator.”

READ MORE: ‘Sex predator’ Luiz da Silva Neto gets 22 years inside

Child rapist groomed girl

Oxford Mail: Willem van der WerfWillem van der Werf

Willem van der Werf received more than 12-and-a-half years’ imprisonment for grooming and repeatedly sexually assaulting a young girl in Banbury.

The 56-year-old’s vile abuse of the child culminated after only a matter of days in his rape of the girl.

Sending him to prison, Judge Nigel Daly told the Dutchman: “What you have done to her is destroy not only her childhood but possibly the rest of her life. You did it for your own sexual gratification. There is no escaping from that.”

READ MORE: Banbury child rapist jailed for more than a dozen years

Parish council clerk's fraud

Oxford Mail: Joanne WillsJoanne Wills

Chinnor and Towersey parish council officer Joanne Wills looted more than £160,000 from the councils' coffers.

By falsifying invoices, she was able to get away with her fraud for years – and even moved money between the two councils to hide her tracks.

The scam was discovered during the coronavirus pandemic when the Chinnor Parish Council's senior clerk was working alone in the office and found one of the faked invoices with account details written on them by hand.

Jailing her for four years, Recorder John Hardy QC said: “You were regarded, and I quote, as a ‘pillar of the community’. You turned out to be the very opposite.” You can read his full sentencing remarks here.

READ MORE: Parish clerk's 'cynical' fraud began after extension works revealed Roman road

Baby's bones were broken

Oxford Mail: Ryan Briston Ryan Briston

Ryan Briston was jailed for 28 months for breaking his baby son’s bones.

The 27-year-old eventually confessed to handling the boy ‘roughly’, claiming that he’d been stressed and working night shifts at a local hotel.

Doctors who examined the boy when he was brought into the John Radcliffe Hospital in August 2020 after being discovered unresponsive and ‘blue’ found he had at least five fractures.

And the injuries, which were sustained at different times, were consistent with the baby having been ‘shaken or swung’, doctors said.

READ MORE: Heartbreaking cruelty of dad who broke son’s bones then took months to come clean

'Now you know what it's like not to see'

Oxford Mail: Joseph HoldenJoseph Holden

Joseph Holden punched his then partner in the eye - telling her: “Now you know what it’s like not to be able to see.”

The woman had accidentally broken the 28-year-old’s glasses on a previous occasion and Holden held a grudge.

During his vicious assault on her, he bragged: “I beat up big men. You are nothing.”

Sending the Oxford man to prison for three years and one month, Judge Michael Gledhill QC said: “You can be an extremely unpleasant man. You seem to regard violence as part of your life.”

READ MORE: Man punched his partner in the eye

Tragic crash caused by tiredness

Dozing lorry driver Valentin Baluta, 29, was full of remorse for causing the head-on crash in which a ‘wonderful’ dad lost his life.

Evidence from the trucker’s own dash cam pointed to him experiencing exception tiredness in the 45 minutes before the crash on the A420 in December 2020. He was picked up slaloming onto the wrong side of the road, slowing to 17mph and winding down the window to get fresh air into the cab.

In a letter to the court, he said he wanted with all his heart to ‘give time back’. “I have already received a life sentence. Due to my fault a man lost his life.”

Jailing Baluta for three years and banning him from driving for four years, Judge Ian Pringle QC said: “It is clear that your vehicle was drifting towards the offside on a number of occasions some time 45 minutes before this collision occurred.”

The defendant kept his head bowed as the judge added: “You stopped on a number of occasions, you wound the window down, you were playing music, you were doing everything you could, really, to try and keep yourself awake and, of course, you didn’t stay awake and the results were catastrophic.”

READ MORE: Exhausted lorry driver caused fatal crash

Thug laughed after setting fire to partner

Oxford Mail: Michael LincolnMichael Lincoln

Michael Lincoln, 56, laughed after setting fire to the liquid – believed to be vodka – that he’d just poured over his then partner’s leg.

He told detectives he had done it as she knew how to ‘push his buttons’ - and claimed she had encouraged him to do it.

Oxford Crown Court heard that although the woman, who at the time thought she might be pregnant with Lincoln’s child, told him ‘go on then, do it’ she did not mean it.

The flames melted her jeans to her leg and, having ripped the trousers off, she was left with a serious burn. A medical report said one per cent of the burn, which covered 1.5 per cent of her body, had gone through all the layers of skin to the underlying flesh.

Sending him to jail for three years and four months, Judge Nigel Daly said: “This was a particularly nasty offence that you committed, pouring whatever it was over your then partner’s leg, setting it on fire and sitting back and laughing.”

READ MORE: Abuser set fire to partner's leg and laughed in 'nasty' attack

Man's head was 'free kicked'

Oxford Mail: Brandon HutchinsonBrandon Hutchinson

Brandon Hutchinson, who ‘free kicked’ his victim’s head, has been jailed for four-and-a-half years.

The 20-year-old launched the violent assault after variously scrapping then making up with the man during an all-night rave in Bagley Woods, near Kennington, on May 8.

A delivery driver who was parked up by the A34 witnessed the onslaught. He likened one of the two kicks Hutchinson aimed at his victim to ‘taking a free kick in football – lots of power, using the laces of his boots’.

READ MORE: Raver who 'free kicked' victim's head after woods party

Mugged by 'Tarzan'

Oxford Mail: Leon DineLeon Dine

The ‘Tarzan’ haired ringleader of a teenaged gang that mugged an innocent in an alleyway got three years in a young offenders’ institution.

Leon Dine, 19, had denied involvement in the knifepoint robbery that saw victim Jordan Wyatt stripped of his £750 Moncler jacket – despite the loser naming him as the ringleader and identifying his ‘Tarzan’-like hairdo.

However, he was convicted by a jury in June of robbery and possession of the blade.

Sentencing Dine to three years in a young offenders’ institution, Judge Nigel Daly said: “You showed a degree of arrogance. You behaved like an arrogant, violent bully and, reading all I have about you, that really does surprise me because that certainly isn’t the way you are perceived by people who know you.”

Dine’s two co-defendants, Sean Gallagher and Daniel Brain, received suspended sentences. They had both admitted their part in the robbery.

READ MORE: Mugging gang ringleader receives custodial sentence

Drug chief: 'We dodged a bullet'

Drug kingpin Richard Gray boasted to his brother, Patrick, that they had ‘dodged a big ****ing bullet’.

All around them, criminals who had used the heavily-encrypted Encrochat phone network were being arrested after the service had been cracked by French police.

Richard thought he was safe, but he was wrong.

Detectives were already on their tail. They had received via the National Crime Agency a dossier of Gray’s Encro messages and, on the strength of it, launched an investigation into the operation.

Police put a farm near Farmoor Reservoir that was used by the group under surveillance and bugged Richard’s specially-converted courier van.

You can read the background to the case here.

Oxford Mail: Patrick Gray, Richard Gray, Lewis CourtPatrick Gray, Richard Gray, Lewis Court

This month, Richard Gray received 21 years’ imprisonment. His brother, Patrick, was given 18 years. Other members of the gang received sentences of between seven-and-a-half years and 12 years.

READ MORE: 66 years behind bars for cocaine conspirators

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.  

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Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward