Freed man tells of 24-hour kidnap ordeal

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The Independent Online

A businessman who was kidnapped and held to ransom revealed details of his ordeal yesterday after being freed during a police sting operation.

Tony Pattison, 45, a builder from Hartlepool, was dragged from his car, tied up and held captive by an armed gang, which demanded tens of thousands of pounds for his release. Police arranged for the cash to be dropped off and for Mr Pattison to be freed. But, once the handover had taken place, detectives sprung a trap and recovered the money. One man was arrested and police are hunting for three members of the gang.

Mr Pattison, who is recovering at home with his wife and stepson, issued a statement which said: "The last 24 hours have been the worst I have known. My family and I have been through hell at the hands of a ruthless gang. I have been bound, threatened and put in fear of my life. I did not know what would happen to me next.

"This trauma has had an appalling effect on me and my family. I can only thank the police and others who have worked tirelessly to bring this nightmare to an end. All I hope now is that the people behind this can be brought to justice."

Cleveland police requested a news blackout during the operation and details of the kidnap were kept secret until yesterday. Mr Pattison was snatched from his Vauxhall Vectra as he ate a sandwich in a car park in Seaton Carew, near Hartlepool, at about 2.20pm on Monday. A man wrenched open his door and he was dragged from the car and bundled into a white Transit van, where he was tied up.

Detective Superintendent Brian Dunn, who is heading the inquiry, said: "His abductors told him they had been following him, they knew who he was and that he had been kidnapped."

The victim's brother was telephoned five times on Monday by the kidnappers, who demanded a ransom. The gang said Mr Pattison would be in "serious danger" if the cash was not handed over. Police were called in by the victim's family at about 1am on Tuesday.

Mr Pattison was kept overnight in a building at an unknown location and then driven around for part of Tuesday. Later, he was taken along a dirt track to a shed at Woodside Farm, which is derelict, near the Samsung factory by the exclusive Wynyard housing estate, in Teesside, which was once home to the footballers Alan Shearer and Kevin Keegan. Mr Pattison was released at about 9.30pm.

Members of the gang, who had picked up the ransom money, were kept under surveillance by the police and at 11pm on Tuesday, a man aged 42, driving a white Transit van, was arrested in Stokesley, North Yorkshire. Tens of thousands of pounds of ransom money was recovered from the vehicle.

Police said Mr Pattison had been "looked after" and had not been ill-treated, though he was constantly in fear of his life.

The victim has not been able to give a description of the gang members even though it is understood none wore a mask to disguise his identity.

Det Supt Dunn said Mr Pattison had been "deeply traumatised" by his abduction and emphasised that the victim had no idea why he should have been selected by the gang, who spoke with Wearside accents.