Kidnap victim's boss tells of fear during ransom drop

THE BOSS of the kidnap victim Stephanie Slater yesterday told a jury of his fear as he prepared to deliver ransom money demanded for her release.

Kevin Watts, selected by the kidnapper, Michael Sams, to act as courier for the handing over of pounds 175,000, said he was in a state of 'panic and extremely frightened'. A radio link with police was not functioning and fog had reduced visibility to little more than 5ft, he told Nottingham Crown Court.

Mr Watts, branch manager of Shipways estate agency in Great Barr, Birmingham, where Ms Slater worked, described how he set off from his office with the money in a holdall and followed a series of messages - some by telephone and others written notes taped to the underside of shelves in telephone kiosks.

He went to Glossop in Derbyshire and then headed towards Barnsley and Sheffield in South Yorkshire. Eventually he drove along a narrow bridle track in South Yorkshire and came across a traffic cone and several signs staked in the ground and bearing the word 'Shipways'. Attached to the cone was a note telling him to put the money in a cloth bag and leave it on a tray on a low wall near by. The note said the cash would not be collected until after he had left the scene. Mr Watts told the jury that at no time did he realise the wall was part of a bridge parapet over a disused railway line.

The court had already heard that the tray was attached to a long rope which the kidnapper pulled to bring the money tumbling down to his feet.

Yesterday the jury was shown a home-made 'sensor device' which had been placed on the tray apparently to detect any police bugging activity - but it turned out to be nothing more than a block of wood in a silver- painted cardboard box.

Sams, 51, of Barrel Hill Road, Sutton-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, has admitted kidnapping 26-year-old Ms Slater, falsely imprisoning her and demanding pounds 175,000 with menaces.

However, he has denied kidnapping and murdering Julie Dart, a Leeds prostitute, twice demanding pounds 140,000 with menaces from police, and demanding pounds 200,000 with menaces from British Rail.

The jury also heard a statement from Andrew Shaw, of Moor End Lane, near Barnsley, who found some of the ransom money dropped by the kidnapper as he made his getaway.

Mr Shaw said he was taking his three dogs for a walk along the Dove Valley Trail when he came across a polythene bag containing bank notes. He took the money home and counted it, finding there was about pounds 2,500.

Mr Shaw said he put some of money into his bank account and paid off some bills. But then he handed the rest to police, adding that he 'regretted' not all the money was still there.

The trial was adjourned until Monday.