'Obsessed' man imprisoned tourists in custody battle

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An 'obsessed' father yesterday admitted luring a Canadian family to England on a promise of a free holiday - then holding the mother and her two children prisoner for 16 hours in a cottage in Cornwall.

Truro Crown Court was told Richard Guest, 61, hatched the elaborate plot to win publicity for his case and access to his three children, after a three-and-a-half-year battle with his estranged wife.

Mr Guest had denied falsely imprisoning Joanne Leyburne, 31. He complained of feeling ill as the prosecution case was put, and after recess changed his plea to guilty.

Mr Iain Ledbetter, prosecuting, said Mr Guest was born in Britain, but had lived in Canada most of his life, marrying and starting a family there. They moved to Britain in the late 1970's, but the marriage broke down and his wife took the children back to Canada with her.

Mr Ledbetter said: 'He grieved, thought about it all the time. It became an obsession, almost the motivating factor in his life. He wanted access to them, he wanted them with him. Such people who become obsessed sometimes do strange things. Their obsession drives them.'

Mr Guest wrote numerous letters to newspapers, his MP, the Prime Minister and the Canadian High Commissioner. The tone of the letters became threatening - Mr Ledbetter said one indicated 'he would have to take out Canadians'.

Mr Ledbetter said that Mr Guest finally devised his scheme. He contacted an estate agent in Ontario saying he was seeking a typical Canadian family to be photographed for a travel feature and filmed for a documentary, for which they would be paid 10,000 Canadian dollars ( pounds 5,200). He was put in touch with Bill Leyburne, 32, and his wife, who lived in Gweath, near Kitchener.

The Leyburne's accepted his offer - even paying their own airfares after he reneged on a promise to send them half the money in advance. When they flew to England on 24 June last year, Mr Guest met them at Heathrow airport, and drove them to his cottage at Week St Mary, near Bude.

The following morning, he drove Mr Leyburne to Penzance to catch a helicopter flight to the Isles of Scilly, claiming that there would be a film crew waiting for him on the island of Tresco.

He later took Mrs Leyburne, and the couple's four-year-old son and six-month-old daughter shopping, and then left them - while he prepared the cottage as a prison.

Mrs Leyburne had just started to give evidence when the case was adjourned shortly before lunch, and Mr Guest later entered his guilty plea.

He is due to be sentenced today.