Armed duo who blackmailed a businessman are jailed for over 17 years
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Two men who kidnapped a businessman at knifepoint, threatened him with power tools and told him to pay £20,000 in a “truly terrifying” blackmail plot have been jailed for more than 17 years between them today (27 July).
James Stephens and Bradley Wright, both 26, locked the man in a car boot and threatened to harm his family if he didn’t pay up in a week.
The incident began when the two men flagged down the victim’s car in the Hambleton area of North Yorkshire.
The businessman thought they needed help so he wound down the window.
Instead, both men set on him, punching and kicking him.
They dragged him out of the car and into a field. One put a knife to his throat while the other held an electric drill to his chest.
They stole his jewellery and locked him in a car boot before driving around making further threats.
The attackers then demanded he paid £20,000 in a week. He made a smaller bank transfer of money before they set him free. But it later transpired that the transaction had failed.
After the kidnapping, the businessman was taken to hospital by ambulance and treated for several injuries.
The incident is believed to have been isolated and targeted - the kidnappers claimed it was over an alleged business debt.
North Yorkshire Police is not naming the victim or publishing any information that could lead to him being identified.
Detectives in CID launched a large-scale investigation to track down the attackers. Complex forensic work, financial crime experts and criminal intelligence helped detectives build a case that led to the arrest of Stephens and Wright, who are both from Hillingdon, West London.
Investigators discovered they had travelled from London to carry out the kidnapping, which happened in September 2019.
They were jointly charged with kidnap, blackmail, robbery, possession of a bladed item and criminal damage, which both pleaded guilty to. They and appeared at Teesside Crown Court today to be sentenced.
A judge jailed Stephens for a total of nine years and seven months, while Wright was jailed for eight years.
After the hearing Detective Constable Mike Cope, who led the investigation for Hambleton & Richmondshire CID, said: “This was a truly terrifying and horrifically violent attack against an innocent family man.
“The victim was left traumatised by his ordeal. He was unable to work and has been deeply affected by the what happened to him. Despite his harrowing ordeal he was courageous enough to help the police with enquiries.
“I’d stress that attacks like this are very rare and we believe this was targeted and pre-planned.
“In blackmail cases, coming forward to the police can be an incredibly difficult decision - criminals know that and capitalise on it.
“However, today’s result shows what is possible when victims put their trust in us, and when we work diligently and collaboratively with the many specialist teams in our force.
“All this has ensured two violent individuals are now behind bars, where they belong, and I hope this goes some way to providing closure to the brave victim.”