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Last Updated: Monday, 18 December 2006, 15:21 GMT
When a child becomes 'collateral'
By Chris Summers
BBC News

Five people have been jailed after being convicted of kidnapping a 10-year-old boy and holding him captive in a tiny bedsit. The boy's rescue, by armed officers, preserved the 100% record of Britain's elite kidnap unit.

Recent kidnap cases
Dawn Fields and Jeriah Simpson
Dec 2006 - Dawn Fields and Jeriah Simpson (pictured) and three other men convicted of kidnapping a 10-year-old boy in London and demanding 100,000.
Nov 2006 - Three men jailed for kidnapping and torturing London bus driver Gabriel Dugbo and demanding a 100,000 ransom.
Jan 2006 - Five men jailed for kidnapping an illegal immigrant in Gravesend, Kent and trying to extort 30,000 from relatives
May 2003 - Five men jailed for abducting a man from a restaurant in Manchester and trying to obtain 7,000 from his relatives in Fujian, China

Kidnapping is not a new crime.

One of the most infamous victims was Shropshire heiress Lesley Whittle, who was abducted in January 1975 by Donald Neilson. She was later found dead and Neilson - better known as the Black Panther - was jailed for life.

One of his fellow inmates is Michael Sams, who kidnapped Birmingham estate agent Stephanie Slater in 1992 and demanded a 175,000 ransom.

The Metropolitan Police's elite Kidnap and Special Investigation Unit handles around 60 cases a year. In some cases the ransom demand is made to relatives or associates in another country, and they often have to liaise with foreign police forces.

Detective Constable Andy Fraser said the majority of kidnaps related to "criminal vendettas", although a significant minority were among illegal immigrants who were often vulnerable to extortion.

Posed as a postman

The Kidnap Unit was called in on 16 February this year by the family of a 10-year-old boy who had been grabbed from his home in Walthamstow, east London, by a gang from New York.

Entry in Dawn Fields' diary
Extracts from Dawn Fields' diary showed her planning for the kidnap

The boy's mother told them one of the gang had posed as a postman to gain entry to the flat during the half-term holidays.

At their trial at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court the jury heard that the gang were looking for a man called Sheldon Stone who they believed had stolen $600,000.

The money was from a mortgage fraud in Brooklyn, masterminded by a New Yorker called Adonis Perez.

The $600,000 had been transferred to a bank in Britain using Sheldon Stone as an intermediary, but had gone missing.

One of the kidnappers was captured on one of the gang's mobile phones
After a day they put me in a bathroom because a girl was coming in, that was when I heard an explosion and the police came in
The boy

The gang, who were armed with guns and a meat cleaver, spent more than two hours searching the flat but eventually they left the boy's mother bound and gagged and forced him to "kiss her goodbye".

Det Con Fraser told the BBC News website: "They decided to take the child as 'collateral' to try and recover their losses. As they left they told the boy's mother not to 'call the Feds'."

He said: "She felt that it might be the last time she would see her son."

They took him to a tiny flat on the Peabody estate in Westminster and locked him in the bathroom while they negotiated a ransom, set at 100,000.

Perez's girlfriend, Dawn Fields, had been heavily involved in planning the kidnap. She had bought guns and balaclavas for the gang, borrowed the flat from a friend and recruited her brother, Jeriah Simpson, to drive them around.

The family pleaded for more time to raise the cash and, in desperation, decided to call the police.

Armed police

The Kidnap Unit was brought in and managed to track down the gang's lair.

Armed police burst into the flat and rescued the youngster.

Det Con Fraser said: "He was naturally very distressed, but he was relieved and we reunited him with his mother very quickly."

The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told the court by videolink: "After a day they put me in a bathroom because a girl was coming in, that was when I heard an explosion and the police came in."

Police investigate kidnapping of Lesley Whittle
In 1975 police tried in vain to save the life of kidnapped heiress Lesley Whittle

Americans Gadwell Gibbs, 24, and Edwin Phillip, 22, along with Trinidadian national Damien Francis, 24, pleaded guilty to kidnap and false imprisonment.

But Fields, 26, and Simpson, 21, tried to bluff it out.

Fields, from Clapham, south London, denied hiring the New York gang, although she admitted she was investigating the missing money which had "come from the underworld".

Wanted man

But Gibbs and Francis testified against her and, together with forensic and mobile phone evidence and a series of incriminating entries in her diary, helped convict her and Simpson.

The guns used by the gang were highly convincing replica weapons.

The guns were extremely realistic imitations
The guns, extremely realistic imitations, were found under Simpson's box
On 18 December the gang were sentenced to a total of 62 years at Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court.

Fields was jailed for 15 years, Phillip for 13 years, Francis and Gibbs both got 12 years and Simpson 10 years.

Judge Simon Smith commended the police.

He said: "It is very commendable how quickly they managed to target this particular address on a kidnap which could have gone on a great deal longer."

Scotland Yard want to speak to Perez, who remains on the run and is also wanted by the US authorities.

Det Con Fraser said: "A lot of kidnap victims, while glad to be recovered, are reluctant to say why they have been abducted and quite often we have obtained convictions despite them refusing to testify.

"But the saving of life is paramount and we will treat the kidnap of drug dealers the same as the abduction of a 10-year-old boy. Our overriding remit is to save life and in that regard we have a 100% record. Money and the arrest of the perpetrators are secondary."

Second man sought after assault
13 Dec 05 |  London
'Snakeheads' jailed after kidnap
01 May 03 |  England


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