A university lecturer fell for a murder suspect after meeting him at a young offenders’ prison, a court heard.

Rachel Kenehan, a lecturer in sociology and psychology, was a mentor for released offenders and started a relationship with Pierre Lewis, one of the three men accused of shooting Jahmel Jones at a flat in St Mary’s, Southampton, in April last year.

Winchester Crown Court heard how Kenehan first met Lewis while he was in custody at Ashfield young offenders’ prison in November 2010 as part of her London Metropolitan University PhD.

She eventually became his mentor following his release and started a relationship with him in November 2012 after “wrestling with her conscience”, she told the court.

Lewis was dealing drugs in the St Mary’s area with Jemmikai Orlebar-Forbes and Isaac Boateng in the weeks leading up to Mr Jones’ death but Kenehan denied any involvement in that, jurors heard.

She said: “I told him, ‘If you are doing this for me, then I want you stop. I certainly don’t need you to do this for me’, and that’s all I said to him.

“I don’t know why anyone would want someone they love to do something so negative.

“I felt sad he needed to do that and I felt scared of the consequences of him doing that.”

Kenehan told the court Lewis was worried he couldn’t provide for her financially.

The court heard how Kenehan accessed the Daily Echo website to read stories about police closing down a crack den and a double stabbing in the centre of Southampton on March 27.

Jurors heard how Kenehan visited the city on various occasions with Lewis and Boateng in March 2013.

Lawrence Bruce, defending Kenehan, said searches were also made for cannabis production, guns, and weapons, on her computer on March 20 last year.

But he said Kenehan was sourcing pictures to use on slides for a lecture she was holding on youth technology and violence at London Metropolitan University.

He added that the term “Southampton crack” was searched for a week later, which brought Kenehan to the Daily Echo news stories.

Kenehan, 35, told jurors: “From reading those searches, and having recently visited Southampton, I was interested. It seemed like a sleepy city, but there were these searches about stabbings and crack houses so I searched about them.”

The court heard how Kenehan hired 18 cars between December 2012 and April 2013, and allowed Lewis to get behind the wheel – despite him not having a driving licence.

A number of parking fines and infractions were also racked up during this time, the court heard.

Kenehan repeatedly denied any knowledge that the hire cars were used for drug dealing. She denies conspiracy to supply class A drugs, assisting an offender, and perverting the course of justice.

Lewis, 20, of Barnes, is jointly charged with the murder of Mr Jones along with Jemmikai Orlebar-Forbes, 20, of Cloudsdale Road, London, and Isaac Boateng, 22, of Hounslow.

They all deny the charge but have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs.