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Kidnap gang took man into woodlands and demanded £5,000

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: September 01, 2014


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A suspected drug dealer was kidnapped in broad daylight outside a supermarket in Exeter and driven to a woodland beauty spot by a group of men who demanded £5,000.

Victim Steven Miller was hit around the head and body by a truncheon and weightlifting bar and had his hands bound with duct tape in after being bundled into the back of a car.

He was driven from the car park of the One Stop shop in Woodwater Lane in Exeter through the city and out to Huxham Brake woods between Stoke Canon and Poltimore.

He was rescued after a local farmer became suspicious of a strange car on land where he stores his trailers and alerted the police, Exeter Crown Court was told.

They had already launched a major search after being alerted by builders who witnessed the violent abduction.

The kidnap was carried out by four men from London who have already admitted their part. A fifth man from Exeter has gone on trial accused of being the driver of the silver Corsa car used in the attack.

George Watts, aged 22, of Ladysmith Lane, Exeter, denies kidnap. William Pugh, aged 22, Jerome James, aged 26, Claudio Diko, aged 20, and Cedric Lushima, aged 19, all of Lebus Street, London, have all admitted the same charge.

Mr Gareth Evans, prosecuting, said Watts is a long standing friend of Pugh, who comes from Exeter but was a student in London.

He said the four others travelled together from London by train on the morning of Monday July 22 last year and Watts picked them up at St David’s Station 45 minutes before the kidnap. They had a booking to return by coach at 5.20 pm.

He said text messages showed Pugh telling Watts to go ‘to the woods asap’ during the kidnap.

He said Mr Miller was dragged ‘kicking and screaming’ into Watts’s Corsa and driven to Huxham Brake. In the way he was hooded and prodded with something sharp in his back.

In the woods his wrists were bound with silver duct tape and he was attacked, leaving a bleeding wound on he head, and injuries to his chin, neck, shoulders, back, legs, arms and ribs.

A farmer spotted the car on his land and called the police. Watts and Pugh were seen driving off and stopped nearby. One of the others was caught by a police dog and two others were arrested as they walked back to Exeter.

Mr Evans said: ”The prosecution say this case is the antithesis of the idea there is honour among thieves. As will become apparent from the text messages. These defendants were carrying out a taxing exercise.

“This was criminals targeting people they believed to be drug dealers and attempting to steal their money or their drugs.

“They were going to tax Mr Miller, who they believed to be a drug dealer. When they took him to the woods they demanded £5,000 or to be given his drugs.

“There were text messages from Pugh to Watts telling him he was going to be making a lot of money that day. He was in financial difficulties and in arrears on his rent.

“It was suggested if there is someone else they can tax they will do them as well. This was an organised trip from London to the West Country for the specific purpose of carrying out a taxing exercise, whether or not it involved violence.

Watts was a willing and active participant. It may be he was only the driver but it could not have taken place without his assistance.”

Mr Evans said Watts remained silent in police interviews. He now claims he did not know anything about a kidnap.

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