Holly Willoughby: Gavin Plumb guilty in kidnap and murder plot

By Lewis Adams, Laura Foster, BBC News, at Chelmsford Crown Court

grey placeholderGetty Images Holly Willoughby at the National Television AwardsGetty Images

Security guard Gavin Plumb wanted to raid TV star Holly Willoughby’s home and take her prisoner

A security guard has been found guilty of plotting to kidnap, rape and murder television presenter Holly Willoughby.

Gavin Plumb assembled a tool kit for highly sexualised violence against the former This Morning presenter to fulfil his “ultimate fantasy”.

The 37-year-old from Harlow, Essex, was arrested and charged after he unwittingly disclosed his plans online to an undercover police officer in the US.

Plumb denied soliciting murder and inciting kidnap and rape between 2021 and 2023, but was found guilty following an eight-day trial at Chelmsford Crown Court.

In a statement, Ms Willoughby said: “I will forever be grateful to the undercover police officer who understood the imminent threat, and to the Metropolitan and Essex police forces for their swift response.”

The defendant, who had previous convictions for attempted kidnap, wept in the dock as he was told he would be sentenced on 12 July.

Det Ch Insp Greg Wood, of Essex Police, told the BBC that Plumb was an “obsessive loner” who had assembled “all the items he needed to cause Holly Willoughby some serious harm”.

“If the American officer hadn’t have contacted us… I’ve got no doubt that Gavin Plumb could’ve gone on to commit some really horrific crimes,” he added.

grey placeholderEssex Police Custody image of Gavin PlumbEssex Police

Gavin Plumb had a “real intention” to kidnap the broadcaster from her home, the trial heard

Ms Willoughby ended her 14-year stint on This Morning after the offences came to light in October 2023.

Plumb had developed an “obsession” with Ms Willoughby spanning more than 10 years, prosecutor Alison Morgan KC said.

He had a “real intention” to kidnap the broadcaster from her home, “take her to a location where she would be raped repeatedly” and then murder her, Ms Morgan continued.

Jurors were told that Plumb was arrested after he revealed his plot to an undercover police officer in the US, who he had been talking to online.

Police bodycam footage of Gavin Plumb’s arrest in Holly Willoughby case

Ms Morgan said Plumb had initially outlined his plan to a man known only as Marc in 2021.

A message sent by the defendant to Marc read: “I’m going to be living out my ultimate fantasy.”

He added: “I’m now at the point that fantasy isn’t enough anymore. I want the real thing.”

Plotted ‘unspeakable violence’

Nicola Rice, specialist prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), said Plumb’s plan was “chilling”.

“Gavin Plumb is a dangerous man who plotted unspeakable violence against one of the nation’s most familiar faces,” she said.

“Despite his attempts to pass himself off as a harmless fantasist, the prosecution persuaded the jury that Plumb posed a very real threat.”

The trial heard Plumb purchased 400 “heavy duty” metal cable ties, as well as bottles purported to contain chloroform to knock Ms Willoughby and her husband out after breaking in to their house.

grey placeholderCPS Inside Gavin Plumb's flatCPS

Gavin Plumb admitted messages he sent from his flat were “dark”

Plumb told Marc in March 2023 in a voice note: “We’re then gonna force her [Ms Willoughby] to make a video saying she come with us under her own free will… and she’s fully consenting to everything we do to her – so that covers us.”

The jury was told he checked out an abandoned stud farm with cells to “keep” Ms Willoughby.

Giving evidence at his trial, Plumb admitted messages he sent online about the presenter were “dark” but there was “no plan” to carry them out.

He said that, with hindsight, his words were “massively regrettable” and acting upon his fantasies was “something I knew that was never going to happen”.

The defendant claimed he had bought chloroform to clean a stain on his floor.

Det Ch Insp Greg Wood thanks the US for warning the UK about Gavin Plumb

Essex Police was notified about Plumb’s plot by the FBI, who had been informed by undercover police officer David Nelson, who is based in the US.

Mr Nelson, not his real name, spoke with Plumb having covertly operated in an online group entitled “Abduct Lovers”.

When giving evidence, Plumb was challenged on his two previous convictions for attempted kidnap in 2006 and another two offences of false imprisonment committed in 2008.

Plumb said he had a “stewardess fantasy” when he tried to force two separate air hostesses to get off a train during the space of three days in August 2006.

grey placeholderSupplied Police in Potters Field, HarlowSupplied

Police officers were seen raiding Plumb’s flat in Potters Field, Harlow, in October 2023

In 2008, he “terrified” two 16-year-old girls when he tied their wrists up and forced them into the store room of a shop.

He was handed a sentence of 12 months, suspended for two years, for his first offences, before he was jailed for 32 months for the false imprisonments.

‘Forever grateful’

Following the verdict, Ms Willoughby issued a statement, saying: “As women we should not be made to feel unsafe going about our daily lives and in our own homes.”

She thanked the CPS and members of the jury “for ensuring that justice was done and that the defendant will not be able to harm any more women”.

“I would also like to commend the bravery of his previous victims for speaking up at the time. Without their bravery this conviction may not have been possible,” the statement added.

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