Kidnapper 'was trying for perfect crime': Man admits abducting estate agent but denies killing teenager

MICHAEL SAMS, a Nottinghamshire toolmaker, yesterday admitted kidnapping the Birmingham estate agent Stephanie Slater and keeping her for a week bound, gagged and blindfolded inside a coffin-style box.

But Sams, 51, denied murdering Julie Dart, 18, of Leeds, who the prosecution say was beaten and strangled when his meticulous plot to commit the perfect crime went wrong.

The case was a 'chilling and remarkable story' which would often horrify them, Richard Wakely, QC, told the jury on the opening day of the trial at Nottingham Crown Court.

Sams, he alleged, had set himself the project of kidnap and blackmail, but was 'so arrogant, so amoral' that he treated it as a game of 'catch-me-if- you-can'. He wanted to prove to himself that kidnap and blackmail could be successfully committed.

Miss Dart, who was murdered 10 days after her kidnap in July 1991, had been 'the innocent victim of his campaign to commit what he regarded as the perfect crime'. But he was not deterred and sought another victim.

Sams, of Sutton on Trent, near Newark, admits kidnapping and imprisoning Miss Slater in January last year, and attempting to blackmail Shipways estate agents, her employers, for pounds 175,000. He denies the murder and kidnap of Miss Dart and making two attempts to blackmail Leeds police, each for pounds 140,000; he also denies a pounds 200,000 blackmail attempt on British Rail.

The court was told that Miss Dart was working as a prostitute in Leeds in July 1991 when Sams - who had planned her kidnap 'down to the last detail' - lured her into his car. He tied her up and took her back to his Newark workshop, where he forced her into a wooden box. The next day, ransom notes were sent.

Miss Dart suffered from claustrophobia and Mr Wakely suggested that she had tried to escape and that Sams had killed her because she had seen him undisguised. Her body was found in a field near Grantham.

The court was told that Sams wrote further letters to Leeds police saying he would kidnap another prostitute unless he received the money.

The Crown had established that he had planned to guide police to a series of telephone boxes, before directing them to a bridge on the M1 where they would leave the money. The plan went wrong, however, when a police officer was unable to unhook one of the telephones.

In October 1991, Sams switched his attention to British Rail, Mr Wakely alleged, and demanded pounds 200,000 to stop him derailing a train, describing how he would do this in convincing detail. But a planned ransom drop using a telephone box at a railway station failed when a BR employee failed to use the correct password.

In January last year, Sams, posing as a prospective purchaser and with his features disguised, met Miss Slater at an empty house in north Birmingham. As she was showing him around the house, he pulled out a knife and forced her, bound and blindfolded, into his car. He then drove back to his workshop in Newark, stopping en route to telephone a ransom demand to her employers.

Mr Wakely said that Miss Slater experienced 'real terror and horror'. She was blindfolded and gagged and kept confined inside a coffin-like box placed inside an upended wheely-bin. Sams told her that if she moved she risked either being electrocuted or crushed to death by boulders suspended above her.

Mr Wakely said that Miss Slater displayed 'remarkable courage and heroism'. 'Stephanie was desperately cold and terrified. She thought she was going to die, but she realised that her life was in his hands and her only chance of survival lay in doing exactly what he said.' During the next seven days, she was only allowed out of the box to relieve herself or to eat. But Mr Wakely said she built up his trust, and established a rapport, making it difficult for him to kill her.' It worked because he was flattered that she deliberately showed how dependent she was on him,' Mr Wakely said.

The jury was told Sams made a series of ransom demands to Shipways and eventually arranged for Kevin Watts, the branch manager, to deliver the money. He was made to follow a complicated trail across the Pennines before arriving at a bridge above a disused railway, where he left the money on a tray on the parapet.

Mr Wakely said that despite the resources of the police, Sams was able to get the money by standing underneath the bridge and pulling a rope attached to the tray. The night was foggy and police had no idea that there was a railway line below.

The trial, which is expected to last eight weeks, continues today.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Recruitment Genius: Invoicing Clerk

£14500 - £17500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company are contractors to...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Administrator / Marketing Assistant

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of packag...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy