Sams says he knows killer of teenage prostitute: Kidnapper of estate agent tells court a friend copied his plan, but 'it went wrong'

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL SAMS, the kidnapper of the Birmingham estate agent Stephanie Slater, entered the witness box yesterday to deny that he had murdered Julie Dart. But he said that he knew who had killed her.

Sams, 51, a tool repairer from Sutton-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, told the court that a friend, who stored packages at his workshop in Newark, had murdered Miss Dart, an 18-year- old prostitute from Leeds.

Sams has pleaded guilty to kidnapping Ms Slater in January 1992, unlawfully imprisoning her and demanding pounds 175,000 with menaces from her then employers. He has pleaded not guilty to the murder of Miss Dart.

At the start of his defence, on the 17th day of the trial at Nottingham Crown Court, Sams described how he had originally planned to kidnap an estate agent in Crewe in July 1991, but said he had had to abandon the scheme after the intervention of a local builder.

He told a friend, who used his workshop for storage, about the scheme and even showed him details of the plan. The friend recorded the plan on Sams's computer, he said.

John Milmo QC, counsel for the defence, asked: 'What was your friend's attitude when you explained to him what you had planned?'

Sams replied: 'He just said it was a brilliant idea and we left it at that.'

That conversation took place at his workshop on 6 July 1991, Sams said. Two weeks later, he and his friend were watching television at the workshop when they saw a news bulletin about a body that had been found in Lincolnshire.

Sams said he remarked: 'Oh, your kidnapping went wrong then.' When Mr Milmo asked: 'What was his reaction?' Sams replied: 'He just said it was all an accident and she had run away and he hit her.'

Sams said he believed his friend said he hit the girl with a hammer.

He described how he had received a late-night telephone call from his friend on 9 July 1991, the day Miss Dart disappeared. He said that the friend asked him if he knew how to use a video recorder because he wanted Sams to film himself and a girl. The next morning the friend had telephoned again and cancelled the arrangement.

Sams claimed that before his arrest he had not seen a letter written by Miss Dart after her disappearance to her boyfriend appealing for help, or two letters written to Leeds police demanding a ransom. But he admitted that two other letters written to police were in his handwriting. He said his friend had asked him to write them.

He said he had never spoken to Miss Dart. When Mr Milmo referred to a document found on his computer describing an encounter between a man and Miss Dart, Sams said that he had not entered it on the machine. He told the court the computer had been kept at his workshop during 1991 and his friend would have had access to it.

He denied trying to wash away bloodstains at the workshop and said he had never been to the area where Miss Dart's body was found.

Yesterday, Sams also denied attempting to blackmail Leeds police for pounds 140,000 and seeking to obtain pounds 200,000 with menaces from British Rail.

Watching Sams from the court's public gallery were Ms Slater, her parents, Betty and Warren Slater, and Kevin Watts, the man who acted as courier for the ransom. Members of Ms Dart's family were also present.

The trial continues today.