An unemployed 41-year-old man from Portslade has been jailed for nine years for kidnapping a hairdresser’s receptionist from Hove.
Stephen Webber, who lived in George William Mews, Portslade, spun a web of lies, pretending that he was an MI5 spy.
Webber persuaded his victim Laura Chapman, 26, of Westbourne Gardens, Hove, that their lives were both in danger.
He was found guilty today (Thursday 7 March) of kidnapping and threatening to kill her in July last year.
A jury also convicted Webber of assault causing grievous bodily harm (GBH) and criminal damage after a nine-day trial at Hove Crown Court.
He was sentenced to nine years in prison for the kidnap, nine years for threatening to kill his victim and nine years for assaulting her.
All three sentences will be served concurrently – as will a six-month sentence for criminal damage – making nine years in total.
Judge Peter De Mille also ordered Webber to serve four years on extended licence after his release from prison.
Judge De Mille said that Webber was manipulative and a danger to the public, especially women.
His arrest and prosecution followed a Sussex Police investigation after Miss Chapman disappeared on Tuesday 10 July last year.
Webber had recently befriended Miss Chapman on the pretext of taking modelling photos of her.
After a five-day police search they were found near Eastbourne on Saturday 14 July.
Webber was arrested and, after medical treatment for minor injuries Miss Chapman was returned to her family.
Detective Inspector Mick Jones said: “Stephen Webber is clearly a dangerous individual whose deceit and manipulation led a vulnerable young woman into believing that he was a spy for MI5 and that they were both in life-threatening danger.
“This led to the victim being too frightened to leave him over a five-day period in which they travelled to Eastbourne, staying in local accommodation while their alleged pursuers hunted for them.
“The victim was so fearful of the situation presented by Webber that she was too afraid to attempt to escape.
“This led to the victim writing a goodbye note to her family as she feared that she would be killed at any time.
“When the mask that he wore began to drop and it became clear to him that his deceit was no longer working on the victim, he tried to smother her with a pillow and caused injuries to her with a knife during a struggle.
“Police officers searching for the victim found her in Eastbourne in a distressed state with Webber who was arrested for kidnapping.
“The courage of the victim in giving evidence in this case is worthy of tribute.
“The defendant by pleading not guilty put the victim through the trauma of reIiving her ordeal but she knew she had to in order to get justice and in doing so protect others from Webber.
“The jury clearly saw through Webber’s lies.
“The public need to be protected from people who prey on others and the police will pursue anyone who does in order to bring them to justice.”
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