Police in Cheshire are looking for an unusually tall, athletically- built man who posed as a police officer to lure Elizabeth Kerr, 37, from her house. They described it as an 'exceptionally well-planned and well-executed' crime.
Although they were not told of the kidnap until after the ransom demand was made and the money paid, police refused to criticise the woman's husband, Derek Kerr, 37. Barclays Bank has offered a pounds 50,000 reward for information.
News of the kidnapping, on Friday, was withheld by police until yesterday for 'operational reasons'.
Police said the bogus policeman, wearing a uniform and carrying a chequered cap, called on Mrs Kerr at the family home in Holmes Chapel, Cheshire, early on Friday morning. He said her husband had been injured in a road accident and offered to drive her to the hospital. Mrs Kerr left with the kidnapper in a metallic blue Ford Orion, but shortly afterwards the man drove across fields. He forced Mrs Kerr into the car boot, where her mouth was taped shut and her hands were tied. Mrs Kerr was slightly injured in the struggle.
More than two hours later Mr Kerr, manager of a Barclays bank at Sale, Greater Manchester, was telephoned with the ransom demand. The caller said his wife would suffer 'extreme harm' if the money was not paid. Mr Kerr told senior staff members, collected the money in used banknotes and immediately left the building.
He found a note on his car windscreen telling him to drive towards the M63. But before he reached the motorway junction, he was forced off the road by the driver of a blue Ford Orion and told to hand over the money, which was in a bag on the front passenger seat.
Police believe the car was the same blue Orion and that Mrs Kerr was still in the boot when the handover was made. More than an hour later she was released in a wood at Over Alderley, Cheshire, a few miles from her home. Mrs Kerr struggled to a farmhouse to raise the alarm. Yesterday she was said to be in a distressed state, with heavy bruising to her face, rope marks on her neck, wrists and legs, and cuts and scratches from struggling through dense undergrowth.
Police said yesterday that Mr Kerr had not contacted them before delivering the ransom money. Detective Superintendent David Holt said: 'Mr Kerr was operating under considerable strain and stress and his main concern was for the safety of his wife. He was only given about five or six minutes to deliver this money and I would not criticise anyone for not telling the police.
'This was a callous crime, an obviously well-prepared crime, committed against a couple going about their normal business. Mrs Kerr has been through a traumatic experience and it is essential that this man is arrested before he commits any further offences.'
Police said they had no indication that more than one kidnapper was involved. He is described as up to 6ft 6in, athletically built, with ginger hair and staring blue eyes.