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UPDATE: Life sentence for security guard who planned kidnap, rape and murder of Holly Willoughby

|News, Violent crime

A security guard from Essex who kept thousands of images of Holly Willoughby has been sentenced to life with a minimum of 15-years for planning her kidnap, rape, and murder.

Gavin Plumb, 37, spent two-and-a-half years researching the TV presenter’s personal life and assembling a ‘kidnap kit’ which included handcuffs, 400 metal cable ties, leg shackles, a pocketknife, and bottles of chloroform. He also searched for imitation firearms online. He was convicted on 4 July after a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court.

Plumb's kidnap kit, photographed by police. It included handcuffs, zip ties, and bottles of chloroform

Plumb – who has a string of previous convictions relating to kidnapping and false imprisonment – sought to recruit others he met online to carry out his brutal attack. He planned to drive to the victim’s home at night, break into the property, and incapacitate the presenter with chloroform.  Plumb’s vile plot then involved taking Holly Willoughby to another location where she would be imprisoned and raped before being murdered.

Nicola Rice, a specialist prosecutor in the Crown Prosecution Service, said:

“The sentence handed down to Gavin Plumb ensures he will remain in prison, where he can no longer threaten or harm women.

“There is no doubt Gavin Plumb posed a real danger and the CPS proved that his plans to kidnap, rape and murder Holly Willoughby were more than mere fantasy and he had every intention of encouraging others to help him.

“I hope today’s sentence brings some comfort to the victim, as well as the victims of his previous offences and sends a clear message that the CPS will always bring the strongest possible case against those who plan violence against women.“

Selfie taken by Plumb
Plumb sent selfies to his 'accomplice'

Plumb’s plans were exposed when he unwittingly shared his scheme in a private chat with a man he hoped would join him – but who turned out to be an undercover police officer based in the US. Plumb even told him of his previous convictions for attempted kidnap and holding girls against their will to bolster his own credibility. The officer, who gave evidence in court via video link under the alias ‘David Nelson’, became concerned at Plumb’s level of planning and alerted the FBI. Soon afterwards Essex Police arrested Plumb at home in Harlow on 4 October.

The officer was able to give evidence under his alias, after the CPS applied for his anonymity to be protected. Only the judge and jury were able to see his face on the live videolink from the US.

Fantasist or real-life threat?

Gavin Plumb repeatedly told the court that the messages outlining his plans and his violent and degrading views about the victim were “just chat” and nothing more. 

The key to the CPS case was proving to the jury that he intended to encourage others to assist him in carrying out the attack. The jury was asked to consider why, if it was only online chatter, Plumb needed to buy a ‘kidnap kit’ and carry out detailed searches on where he thought the victim lived. When asked by the prosecution why he had bought chloroform, Plumb told the jury at Chelmsford Crown Court that he needed it to remove a stubborn stain on his carpet.

The prosecution also successfully applied to the court before the trial for permission to tell the jury about his previous convictions. There were two separate incidents in 2006 where he unsuccessfully tried to kidnap two women on a train, using an imitation firearm in one instance, for which he received a suspended prison sentence. 

In 2008 he held two 16-year-old girls he worked with against their will. He tied the hands of one girl behind her back using tape after his rope got tangled. The other girl ran off to raise the alarm and he was arrested by police and eventually sentenced to 32 months in prison. These previous convictions showed the jury that Plumb had committed crimes which were aimed at controlling and terrifying women.

Notes to editors

  • At the start of the trial, Holly Willoughby waived her right to anonymity regarding the third count of encouraging or assisting to rape
  • The trial of Gavin Plumb (dob 25/2/1987) began on 24 June at Chelmsford Crown Court and he was found guilty of three counts:
    • Soliciting murder, contrary to section 4 of the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 - sentenced to 15 years and 85 days.
    • Encouraging or assisting others to commit kidnap, contrary to section 45 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 - sentenced to life with a minimum of 15 years and 85 days.
    • Encouraging or assisting others to commit rape, contrary to section 45 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 - sentenced to life with a minimum of 15 years and 85 days.
  • Nicola Rice is a specialist prosecutor based in the complex casework unit of the CPS in the East of England.

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