February 2021

Ex prison governor jailed for spying on women with secret cameras hidden in fake fire alarms

A retired East Yorkshire prison governor is himself behind bars in a strange turning of the tables.

Former HMP Wolds boss David McDonnell, 73, set up secret cameras in young women’s bedrooms so he could watch them live in their most intimate moments

The sick pensioner has been described by one former prison worker as “respected by many staff” at the prison, who are now “shocked” by his disgusting behaviour.

Hull Crown Court heard that McDonnell, now understood to be at HMP Hull, inserted the camera into a number of fire alarms he was installing at the homes of the three young women he targeted.

He then set up a live stream that captured them going about their day-to-day activities, as well as their private times. He has been jailed for 32 months.

One shocked prison staff member, who worked with McDonnell, said: “To be fair he was respected by many staff so there will be many that are shocked by his behaviour.

“I personally thought he had another side to him. He spied on women and this pervert has been let off lightly.”

McDonnell retired as governor of HMP Wolds, the first to be privately managed anywhere in Europe, in March 2011. At the time of his retirement he was described as “popular, experienced, wise and sensitive”.

But now he is inside a cell himself. The prison he used to manage is today known as HMP Humber after a merger with neighbouring facility HMP Everthorpe.

Stephen Littlewood, prosecuting, told Hull Crown Court on Monday that three women were watched by McDonnell as they dressed after showering and had sex with their partners.

It was only when a small TV showing the live stream was discovered at McDonnell’s home that he was caught. The court was told McDonnell had been watching the women for 15 years.

Mr Littlewood told the court: “The camera was located in the smoke alarm. There was footage found of one woman engaging in various sexual acts with a boyfriend, and then sexual intercourse with another.

“Police recovered footage from multiple occasions where the woman was naked having been in the shower.”

More footage was recovered which showed McDonnell having sex with women who were thought to be sex workers. There were no charges brought in relation to that footage.

One of the women who had been filmed and watched by McDonnell said she felt “violated” and did not feel safe in her own home, where she should feel safest.

Another said: “I have no idea when I will understand the impact this has had on me.”

The former partner of one of the women, who was filmed having sex with her also described feeling violated.

McDonnell, of Sandfield Green, Market Weighton, was jailed for 32 months and made subject to a community order and a restraining order. He must also attend rehabilitation.

Judge David Tremberg told him: “This offending is a dramatic fall from grace for a man like you with an unblemished character.

“I have read lots of references that speak highly of you. You viewed the benefits for you as outweighed the risk.

“You installed a covert and quite sophisticated surveillance system with cameras and recording equipment and you captured your victims over the course of years. It is clear this offending had quite a significant degree of planning.”