Briton kidnapped and tortured in Portugal over 'unpaid debts'

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The Independent Online

A British man had an ear, two fingers and three toes cut off after being kidnapped in Portugal and tortured for 13 days over an alleged debt.

James Ross, from Wick in the Scottish Highlands, was allegedly kept captive in a cage after being lured to the Algarve on 5 October. Reports in Portugal suggested that the 26-year-old owed his captors £10,000 and had been told he could pay it off by working for them. But he was kidnapped upon arrival at Faro airport.

According to one local newspaper, Correio da Manha, Mr Ross escaped from his prison – hidden in a villa in the village of Boliqueime, near the town of Loule – on Monday, and was found bleeding in the street by a local man, Carlos Pereira.

Mr Pereira told the newspaper: "He came staggering towards me asking me to stop, waving his arms in the air. He had no left ear and was missing two fingers on his left hand, one toe from one foot and two from the other. He also had a leg wound."

Mr Ross is said to have told Mr Pereira he had been involved in a road accident. Mr Pereira said: "He was very white. He said 'Please, please, telephone'. I decided to put him in my van and drove him to a square, near a cafe, and called the police."

Four other Britons have been arrested in connection with the allegations and will appear in court in Portugal. The men are said to have been arrested over the weekend.

Initially police believed that Mr Ross had been murdered, and they were searching for his body in a dam when he was discovered alive. He is now in hospital in Portugal, under armed guard, according to the local media.

Northern Constabulary, which polices the Highlands, confirmed that it had launched an investigation on 15 October after Mr Ross was reported missing by a member of his family – believed to be his wife Donna.

Correio da Manha said Mrs Ross was telephoned by her husband's captors and told he would be killed if she contacted the police. The force enlisted the help of the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca) and the Portuguese Policia Judicaria.

A spokesman for the Northern Constabulary said: "Following a report of a high-risk missing person made to police at Wick over the disappearance of a 26-year-old local man who had travelled to Portugal, Northern Constabulary instigated a joint operation with the Policia Judicaria and the assistance of the UK Soca.

"This operation culminated in the arrest of four UK nationals on serious criminal charges in Portugal where court appearances are expected. Investigations are continuing in tandem with the Portuguese authorities. The man has been recovered safely by officers in Portugal."

A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We can confirm the hospitalisation of a British national on 18 October in Faro, Portugal. We stand ready to provide consular assistance."