Abductor's first target had lucky escape, jury told: Prosecution says Michael Sams committed murder rather than scrap plans for kidnapping

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The Independent Online
A WOMAN estate agent in Crewe narrowly missed becoming the first kidnap victim of Michael Sams, six months before he imprisoned Stephanie Slater, when a meticulously-planned abduction went wrong at the last minute, a court heard yesterday.

The prosecution at Nottingham Crown Court claimed the failure of the Crewe kidnap led to Sams's abduction and murder of Julie Dart in Leeds a week later - which he committed rather than scrap his preparations for a kidnap and ransom.

Richard Wakerley QC, for the prosecution, said Sams had admitted the Crewe kidnap attempt to detectives after his arrest to explain a computer file which appeared to contain plans for a ransom drop at Crewe station. Police believe this related to an attempt to blackmail British Rail for pounds 200,000, which Sams denies, which involved contacting police through a telephone box at the station.

Sams, 51, a toolmaker from Sutton on Trent in Nottinghamshire, also denies the murder of Miss Dart, 18, of Leeds, a prostitute, and making two ransom demands to Leeds Police for pounds 140,000. But he has admitted the kidnap and imprisonment of Stephanie Slater, a Birmingham estate agent, and making a ransom demand of pounds 175,000 to Shipways, her employer.

Mr Wakerley said Sams had told police he made an approach to view a house being sold by a Crewe company called Royal Life Estates. He had hoped that a young lady would go to show him around, and that he could then kidnap her. He had gone to the house to meet the negotiator, a woman called Carol Jones, but as he was waiting a builder working on the house next door approached Sams and tried to interest him in buying another property. At the same time, said Mr Wakerley, Miss Jones arrived with a young girl on work experience.

Miss Jones, said Mr Wakerley, had 'a very lucky escape' but he suggested that rather than scrap the plans, Michael Sams decided to abduct Miss Dart in Leeds, a city he knew well.

'He had everything prepared to the last detail. He had the kidnap prepared. He had the imprisonment at Newark prepared. He had the ransom demand prepared on the third of July . . . should he dismantle the box that he had ready for Carol Jones in his workshop; should he put away the chains he had ready and should he scrap the letters, the messages?'

Mr Wakerley said that 'a brilliant piece of detective work' had led police to discover the remainder of the ransom money, which Sams had claimed had been taken away by the 'mate' whom he blamed for the murder of Miss Dart and the British Rail blackmail. Sams had admitted going train spotting a week after the release of Miss Slater at a location in Lincolnshire 1.7 miles away from where the body of Miss Dart had been found. But police had established that the trains he could have seen at this spot were exactly the same as those which went past his own house, 20 miles away.

A search of the area using radar and metal detectors discovered a buried package of money in a polythene bag from the Black and Decker tool company, from which Sams bought tools. After this discovery Sams told police that he had driven to the spot with his friend, who had ordered him to package some money but had then gone and buried it. Sams told police that another package was buried near by, which was also discovered. Mr Wakerley said a total of pounds 130,400 was found at these two locations.

The jury also heard yesterday that a number of deleted computer files retrieved from Sams's word processor gave details of what appeared to be telephone boxes and locations associated with the BR ransom demands.

Sellotape on the envelope on one of the BR letters contained fibres which matched Sams's gloves, jacket and trousers while the numbers of five telephone boxes on Crewe railway station were found in his wallet.

The trial continues on Monday.