Three men jailed for almost 30 years in total after kidnapping woman from South Shields street and demanding £2,000 ransom

From left, Christopher Brown, Kenneth Cook and John Kyle appeared at Newcastle Crown Court.From left, Christopher Brown, Kenneth Cook and John Kyle appeared at Newcastle Crown Court.
From left, Christopher Brown, Kenneth Cook and John Kyle appeared at Newcastle Crown Court.
Three men are behind bars after a terrified woman was kidnapped off the street by blackmailers who demanded £2,000 ransom from her boyfriend to stop them cutting her throat.

The victim was held captive for almost four hours by strangers who warned they would kill her, throw her in the River Tyne and send a gruesome picture to her partner afterwards.

During the shocking ordeal the woman, who was taken from a street in South Shields, suffered a broken breastbone in the violence she endured before being dumped from the car she was picked up in, more than five miles away, in Hebburn.

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Newcastle Crown Court heard while the woman was held hostage, she was repeatedly ordered to contact her boyfriend by mobile phone so either she or the kidnappers could speak to him.

Her boyfriend, who drafted in the police to help negotiate her release, told the court: "It was like something out of the movies, not real life, so far-fetched. I don't think the police realised how serious it was at first."

The victim said in an impact statement, which was read in court at the sentence hearing: "I am terrified to stay in the house alone.

"I am so frightened I cry all the time. I don't understand why they did this to me."

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Kenneth Cook, 26, of Bensham Bank, Gateshead, pleaded guilty to blackmail and was found guilty by a jury of kidnap and causing grievous bodily harm with intent.

He has been jailed for 15 years with a four year extended licence period.

John Kyle, 30, of Ribble Walk, Jarrow, was found guilty at the same trial of kidnap and blackmail. He has been jailed for ten years with a four year extended licence period.

Judge Amanda Rippon said both men are "dangerous" and "pose a significant risk of causing serious harm" so extended sentences were required in their cases, for the protection of the public.

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Judge Rippon said the offences arose out of "absolutely nothing" and were "extraordinary".

The judge added that the victim was a "entirely innocent woman" and said: "You threatened to kill her, to cut her throat and drop her in the Tyne.

"I have not the slightest doubt she thought she was going to be killed."

Christopher Brown, 42, of Grosvenor Crescent, Hebburn, was found guilty of blackmail and has been jailed for four years.

Judge Rippon said he does not pose a danger to the public.

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Prosecutor Richard Herrmann told the court during the trial the couple's ordeal started when they went to the One Stop shop in Whiteleas Way, South Shields, last June and one of the men thought there had been a "perceived slight" by them towards him.

As the couple walked towards their home, a black Vauxhall Vectra repeatedly drove past them before they were confronted by the group and the boyfriend was threatened with a knife.

Mr Herrmann said the man gave his girlfriend their shopping bags and told her to get to safety before he was chased by the men and managed to get away.

As the woman made her way home alone, she encountered the vehicle again and was ordered to "get in the f***ing car" before being forced into the back seat.

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Mr Herrmann said "unfortunately, this was only the beginning of the ordeal for her" and said she was ordered to make a call to her boyfriend on her mobile.

The court heard once the call connected, one of the men took the woman's phone from her and demanded £2,000 from the boyfriend and said they would "cut her throat then throw her in the Tyne and send a photo of it to him".

The woman was then driven to the banks of the river, where she was ordered to get out, grabbed by the pony tail and attacked by Cook, who kicked her in the chest and broke her sternum.

The victim, who "didn't have a clue where she was" was then taken to a house, where the men demanded to know how they could track down her boyfriend and get the ransom money from him.

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The court heard when the men failed to get the ransom they asked for, the woman was dumped in Hebburn and the police managed to locate her, near Elmfield Road.

Glen Gatland, defending, said Cook has unresolved bereavement issues following the death of his father but has support from his family.

Mr Gatland said Cook has "turned his life around" since the offences and added: "He is sorry. He does show remorse for what has occurred and he has come to his senses in prison."

Cook read references to the court from prison staff about the positive changes in his behaviour since he was remanded.

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He refused to answer when questioned by detectives, did not give evidence during the trial and did not serve a statement of his defence.

Peter Eguae, defending, said Kyle has admitted, in his own words, he "messed up big time" and has made "the biggest mistake of his life so far".

Mr Eguae said Kyle, who provided character references to the court, is motivated to get back to his family and his children ad stay away from trouble in future.

Kyle refused to answer police questioning and claimed in a defence statement he was not present during the offences but did not give evidence during the trial.

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Christopher Sykes, defending, said Brown "went along" with the blackmail and did not play a major part.

Mr Sykes said Brown is a "loving and loyal father" who volunteers his time to help the community and is a skilled labourer.

He told police he had little recollection of what he did or who he was with that night due to intoxication and did not give evidence at the trial.