Four masked kidnappers who abducted Melton man and kept him hostage for ransom are jailed

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Six people have been sentenced to more than 38 years in prison for their part in the kidnap and false imprisonment of a Melton man which a judge said was carried out with a ‘chilling degree of threats, cruelty, ruthlessness and sadism’.

Kenneth Wallace (23), Daniel South (31), Levi Wildridge (31) and Damien Hyland (31) all pleaded guilty to the kidnap of Daniel Tillson (37).

Wallace, of Manvers Street, Nottingham, South, of Walmer Road, Nottingham, and Wildridge, of Wadhurst Gardens, Nottingham, were each jailed for seven-and-a-half years. Hyland, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to six years and eight months behind bars.

Alisha Campbell (32), of Sneinton Boulevard, Nottingham, was found guilty by jury after trial of a charge of false imprisonment, She received a five-year sentence.

Keisha Makanjuola (28), of Manvers Street, Nottingham, pleaded guilty to a charge of false imprisonment and was jailed for four years.

Leicester Crown Court heard today (Friday, March 11) that masked kidnappers Wallace, South, Wildridge and Hyland had originally planned to rob Mr Tillson of cannabis he was growing in his home.

They burst into Mr Tillson’s house on Gartree Drive, Melton, at about 10pm on May 19 last year. One of them hit Mr Tillson with an iron bar and further blows were delivered.

But their plans changed after Mr Tillson told them the cannabis wasn’t ready for harvesting and he didn’t keep cash in the house. After their search of the house didn’t turn up any cash the gang decided to kidnap Mr Tillson, bundling him into the back of a Citroen Berlingo van and driving him away.

The court heard Mr Tillson’s abductors later threatened to tie bricks to him and drown him in the River Thames, chop off his fingers and set dogs onto him if their ‘chilling’ ransom demands weren’t met.

Mr Tillson was eventually taken to a house in Manvers Street, Nottingham, where the kidnappers held him hostage overnight in a small upstairs bedroom.

Using Mr Tillson’s mobile phone the gang made 32 ‘spine-chilling’ ransom calls to his brother, Aaron, including threats to cut his fingers off if the money wasn’t delivered quickly.

At one point the gang demanded £10,000 but this figure reduced as time went on. The court heard that Aaron notified the police who skilfully orchestrated a surveillance operation and helped negotiate a reduced ransom amount, with a deal being struck at £4,500.

The police noted down the serial numbers and a plain clothed detective delivered the cash in a carrier bag to a salt bin at Nottingham’s Lady Bay Retail Park just after 3pm the next day.

Two of the male kidnappers, South and Wallace, went to collect the ransom money in a Citroen DS3 car before Mr Tillson was released from the Berlingo van nearby. He had suffered a black eye and bruising.

The Citroen DS3 had been provided by Alisha Campbell (32) who had borrowed it from her aunt. The court heard she wasn’t in the car when the ransom was collected but she had also provided the accommodation where Mr Tillson had been kept hostage overnight although she wasn’t living at the property at the time.

Within half an hour of the ransom being paid police stopped the Citroen DS3 which was being driven by South and carrying Hyland, Campbell, Makanjuola. Most of the ransom money was inside.

Makanjuola had £1,000 of the money in her handbag and a further £50 in her pocket. Her fingerprints were also on the ransom bag.

A further £1,860 was recovered in the DS3.

The court also heard that South had about £280 cash on him, also having deposited £300 into a bank account about 20 minutes before the vehicle was stopped. Wildridge had also spent £500 on gold grillz for his teeth before police arrested him and recovered a further £200 of the ransom money.

Simon Gruchy, defending Wallace, said his actions and part in the kidnap was ‘completely out of character’ and referred to an occasion when he saved the life of a woman who tried to commit suicide.

Mr Gruchy added: “This wasn’t something he readily went into as a pre-planned exercise. The plan wasn’t to kidnap or hurt anyone it was to take some drugs.

“He went into it thinking he was going to make a small amount of money but matters escalated beyond what he anticipated.”

James Varley, representing Hyland, asked for him to be given credit for his early guilty plea which resulted in a ‘domino effect’ with others pleading guilty to the kidnap.

He added: “The victim was taken into the van with a very low level of violence. He was treated in quite a friendly manner and given sustenance. There was no torture, it simply spiralled out of control.”

Richard Thatcher, defending South, said he had ‘expressed genuine remorse’ and Jonathan Straw, representing Wildridge, said: “He found himself embroiled in a situation which quickly got out of hand.”

Raglan Ashton, defending Campbell, claimed she didn’t play a ‘proactive part’ in what took place and only became involved at a later stage, playing a ‘peripheral role’. He added that Campbell wasn’t in the car when the ransom money was picked up and she was the only one in the car without any ransom money on her when it was later stopped by police, reflecting her involvement. He said the false imprisonment offence was ‘wholly out of character’ and highlighted her work in the community and as a care worker.

Leanne Summers, representing Makanjuola, said her involvement in the offence ‘came much later than others. She added: “On the day of the incident she received a phone call from other defendants asking to come to her house. She believed they were coming to her property to drink. At that stage she wasn’t aware of what had taken place or prior knowledge of what was to happen. When they arrived she knew something was wrong and at that stage she became involved in criminality.”

Miss Summers said that Makanjuola, who had been working as a charity fundraiser for Cancer Research, also expressed remorse and her behaviour was ‘totally out of character.’

In sentencing all six defendants Judge Simon Hammond said: “It’s clear this was a robbery which went wrong. When they realised they were going to be leaving empty handed they decided to abduct Mr Tillson and hold him until the ransom was paid.

“This kidnapping and false imprisonment was carried out with a chilling degree of threats, cruelty, ruthlessness and sadism without any mercy causing great distress to Mr Tillson and his brother. It must have been a terrifying ordeal for them.”

“The defendants were playing for high stakes. This was a serious crime. In my view all four men were all in this together. This was a team job.”

Speaking after the sentencing Detective Chief Inspector Shaun Orton, who led the investigation, said: “This offence was perpetrated by greedy individuals who were violent when necessary.

“When several members of that team were arrested early on they claimed the victim was in on it. A thorough police enquiry proved this wasn’t true and identified the remaining members of the gang, including Hyland who was on the run in London.

“The overwhelming evidence the investigation team produced led to five out of the six defendants pleading guilty. I’m grateful it spared the victim the mental anguish of giving evidence in court.”

DCI Orton said Daniel Tillson had received a caution for growing the cannabis plants and an order had been given for the destruction of the plants and the cannabis growing equipment.