Kidnapper may have staged dry run

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A kidnapper who snatched the wife of a Cheshire bank manager for a pounds 40,000 ransom may have staged a dry run in the West Midlands seven days earlier, police disclosed yesterday.

On 14 August, Elizabeth Kerr, 37, was held captive in the boot of a car for more than four hours after being abducted from her home in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, by a bogus policeman.

Her husband Derek, 37, manager of Barclays Bank in Sale, Greater Manchester, followed telephone and written instructions to deliver a ransom. His wife was found later, bound and gagged in a wood.

Detectives said yesterday that an incident occurred at Solihull in the West Midlands on 7 August when the 25-year-old senior manager of a National Westminster Bank branch received a call from a man who told him he was holding his wife.

The caller told the manager he would find instructions in the bank's letterbox, but the manager alerted police who quickly established that his wife was safe and well at home.

Police said yesterday that there were a number of similarities between the incidents. Both occurred in what police describe as good class areas on the edge of cities and within three miles of an airport.

The offender in both cases asked for the bank manager by name and made references to local hospitals.

The notes used in both cases were hand delivered, printed rather than handwritten, on plain A4 paper. Both notes referred to 'us' rather than 'me' or 'I', and ordered the couriers to deliver the ransom to nearby motorways.

In both cases a time limit was imposed by the caller for the collection and delivery of the money.

Detective Superintendent David Holt, the head of Cheshire's eastern Serious Crime Squad, said: 'All these similarities lead us to believe there is probably a link between the two. The threats made were very similar in the Solihull incident to those made in Cheshire.'

Meanwhile, police are trying to trace Mrs Kerr's black leather handbag and are anxious to interview the occupants of three cars seen in Over Alderley, Cheshire, at about the time Mrs Kerr was dumped by her kidnapper. The cars were two Austin Metros, one red and the other yellow, and a blue Ford Fiesta containing two elderly ladies.

The man police are seeking is described as between 33 and 38, of athletic build, 6ft 3in to 6ft 6in tall, with ginger hair, piercing blue eyes and no noticeable accent.