Three guilty of kidnap plot

Click to follow

Three men were today found guilty of involvement in a kidnap plot where a £90,000 ransom was demanded for the return of two shopworkers.

The two victims, one of them a friend of singer Lily Allen, were kidnapped at gunpoint from a west London store last summer and were held captive for more than a week.

A spokeswoman for Southwark Crown Court said the jury also found two of the three men guilty of blackmail.

The victims were grabbed by a gang of six hooded men at the sports shop where they were working.

They were handcuffed and bundled into separate cars while the shop was ransacked.

After the men were rescued, Allen wrote on her blog: "Thank you to the Met for getting my friend back, we were all terrified and from what I hear you guys did an amazing job."

Vergil Percival, 36, of Northwold Road, Stoke Newington, London, was today found guilty of two counts of kidnap and one count of blackmail.

Thijseen Johns-Elliot, 28, of Siddons Road, Sydenham, London, was found guilty of two counts of false imprisonment and one count of blackmail.

Jason Goode, 27, of Verdant Lane, Hither Green, London, was found guilty of two counts of false imprisonment. He was found not guilty of the blackmail charge.

Three others had already admitted playing a role in the plot.

Joseph Hadji, 27, of Ashmore Road, Queen's Park, London, pleaded guilty to two counts of kidnap and one of blackmail.

Ashanti Kumpati, 29, of Greenhaven Drive, Thamesmead, London, and Paul Wigan, 29, of Milford Towers, Thomas Lane, Catford, each pleaded guilty to two counts of false imprisonment and bribery.

Police still want to trace five other men who entered the shop with Hadji.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said it appeared the victims, who had been told that they would be killed, were being led to their deaths when officers intervened.

After the kidnap, the two men, aged 18 and 25, were taken to Kumpati's home where they were kept handcuffed and blindfolded with duct tape at all times.

They were kicked and punched, continuously threatened with torture and serious violence and told they would be killed.

Officers, who were watching the flat, intervened in the early hours of 9 August last year when the victims, still wearing handcuffs and black plastic bags with hoods on their heads, were taken from the flats to two parked cars.

The hostages were rescued and Wigan, Kumpati, Goode and Elliot were arrested.

Percival was arrested in the early hours of 11 August last year and Hadji was apprehended on 14 August.

Det Insp Steve Wagstaff, of the Metropolitan Police's kidnap unit, said: "This was a violent and organised kidnap where those responsible showed little concern for the welfare of the two hostages, holding them in extreme conditions and exposing them to violence and psychological torture.

"Their only concern was the payment of a ransom - the fate of both hostages seemed immaterial.

"We would urge anyone who recognises any of the outstanding suspects to contact us."

Det Supt Mark Pepper added: "I would like pay tribute to the two hostages for their courage in giving evidence at this trial.

"It was their strength of character which assisted in today's result."

The men will be sentenced on 12 October.