A millionaire's daughter who drove looters around while they robbed people at knifepoint during last year's London riots told a court today she had been too scared to stop them.
Laura Johnson, 20, had gone to pick up her friend Emmanuel Okubote, 20, known as T-Man, from Curry's, in Bromley Road, Catford, south east London, when he and three other men wearing hooded tops, bandanas and balaclavas got into the back of her car and ordered her to drive.
The student told a jury at Inner London Crown Court that she had struck up a close friendship with Okubote during the summer after being introduced to him by a friend she had met while she was an outpatient in a mental health unit.
Johnson told the court that her mental health was very unstable leading up to the incident on the evening of 8 August. According to the BBC Johnson told the court her mental health was "very bad" because she recently been raped.
The court heard that she began self-harming after splitting up with her boyfriend earlier that year and tried to commit suicide six times by overdosing on tablets.
On the day of the incident, Johnson said she had planned to drop off T-Man's phone charger to him before meeting up with her ex-boyfriend.
Instead she claims she was made to drive around the Catford, Hither Green and Charlton areas of London while the men got in and out of the car to loot and rob people.
Martin McCarthy, defending, asked Johnson if she had asked the men to get out of her car and if she had any desire to be involved in the looting.
Johnson said: "The tone of it, the way they were dressed, the shock of it all, it pushed me to not resist. I was scared."
The court was shown CCTV of Johnson pulling up at a petrol station in Sydenham where Okubote filled the car up with fuel.
She said although there had been no direct threats to her until that point, she felt she could not get away.
She said the men in the back of the car had been talking about violence and they were amused by the reactions of people they had robbed at knifepoint.
She said: "In terms of stabbing, they used the terms 'getting wetted' or 'boaring' somebody, and they kept saying people were 'going to get f***** up'."
Johnson said she told Okubote several times that she needed to go home but he claimed they would not be much longer so she kept driving, the court heard.
She said it was only when she disagreed with some of the things the men in her car were saying that Okubote placed a hand around the back of her neck in a threatening manner.
The court was told that the looting continued until 2.30am and during that time the men in the back of Johnson's car had a verbal altercation with a 17-year-old man who drew up alongside them at a retail park which was being looted.
Johnson said the teenager told them he had a gun and pretended his mobile phone was a weapon.
Mr McCarthy told the court that the 17-year-old later took a picture of Johnson at the wheel of her car when he came across her again, and she appeared to be smiling in the photo.
Johnson said: "My response was, if I smile and he goes away, that's fine. If I smile he will leave, rather than antagonising him.
"I had already been told to stop looking so scared and that I was prettier when I smiled."
Johnson, from Orpington, south east London, denies three counts of burglary and three alternative counts of handling stolen goods.
The 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons, admits one count of burglary but denies two further counts of burglary or handling stolen goods.
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