Kidnap victim freed in armed police raid

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The Independent Online
A young man who suffers from spina bifida was rescued by armed police using stun grenades yesterday after he was kidnapped and held for ransom at a Hertfordshire hotel.

Craig Allee, 21, of Liverpool, was taken from his Merseyside home in the early hours of Saturday morning by a group of men and driven down to London. A ransom demand of pounds 51,000 was made to his father and police launched a full-scale search in an attempt to trace the kidnap gang.

Mr Allee, who suffers from spina bifida, a defect of the spinal column which affects walking and bladder control, was eventually traced to one of two rooms in the West Lodge Park Hotel in Hadley Wood, Hertfordshire. Armed officers from the South East Regional Crime Squad raided both rooms with stun grenades and Mr Allee was eventually found, safe and well.

Four men and one woman were arrested in the incident and were taken back to Merseyside last night for questioning.

Detective Superintendent John Kerruish, in charge of the operation, said yesterday that Mr Allee, who needs regular medication for his condition, had been examined by a doctor who declared him fit and well.

"It was a very frightening experience for Craig," Det Supt Kerruish said. "He suffers from spina bifida, he is only 21, he was threatened and taken from his bed at 4am, driven hundreds of miles and detained against his will. Quite obviously he was upset. But he is now quite cheerful and in good spirits and is grateful for what was done for him."

Det Supt Kerruish said it was believed that those involved in the kidnap knew Mr Allee's father and that there could be a business connection between them. "We will have to interview the father again. He has been very concerned for the safety of his son," he said. "He has co-operated with us throughout and he is delighted that his son has been safely recovered."

A number of plainclothes officers arrived at the four-star, 50-room hotel at around 11pm on Saturday night. Senior officers informed one of the managers that a police operation was underway and guests returning after a night out were stopped from going up to their rooms.

Det Supt Kerruish said the operation had been "wonderfully successful". "The firearms people who executed the entry to the rooms are highly trained individuals," he said. "The stun grenades disorientate people and make a lot of noise but do not injure anyone."

Staff and guests said they heard several explosions as the police raided the room where Mr Allee was being held.

Tonia King, duty manager at the hotel, said that when the gang arrived with Mr Allee early on Saturday evening they immediately aroused suspicion.

"They paid in cash. They had a lot of money on them and it was unusual," she said. "We never suspected anything like this but I know the receptionist and the housekeeper felt that there was something not right."

Police were yesterday still trying to determine the motive behind the kidnap but it is thought that there could be a link with drug dealing.

A follow-up investigation is being carried out in the London area which involves officers from Merseyside, the Metropolitan Police and the South East Regional Crime Squad.