Willoughby kidnap plot – threat was ‘imminent’ says officer

By Lewis Adams, BBC News, at Chelmsford Crown Court

Getty Images Holly Willoughby presenting Dancing on IceGetty Images

Pictures of TV presenter Holly Willoughby were posted in an online group called “Abduct Lovers”, a jury at Chelmsford Crown Court heard

An undercover police officer feared there was an “imminent threat” to Holly Willoughby after pictures of the TV presenter were posted in an online group called “Abduct Lovers”, a court has heard.

Gavin Plumb, 37, from Harlow, Essex, is accused of using the messaging app Kik to find others to help him abduct, rape and murder Ms Willoughby.

The officer – who is based in the US and gave his evidence by video link with no image displayed – told jurors he was concerned Mr Plumb was “looking for hitmen” to carry out his alleged plot.

Mr Plumb, on trial at Chelmsford Crown Court, has denied soliciting murder, inciting kidnap and inciting rape.

The officer, who used the pseudonym David Nelson to protect his identity, alleged the defendant was one of 50 active members in the Abduct Lovers group.

“What is discussed in that group is abductions, kidnap, rape and murder of other individuals,” Mr Nelson said.

grey placeholderGavin Plumb

Gavin Plumb denies assembling a “kidnap kit” to abduct Ms Willoughby

Jurors were told Mr Plumb, a security guard, had a Kik account named “BigBear341987”, and used an image of Ms Willoughby as his profile picture.

On 3 October 2023, the defendant allegedly posted four pictures of the broadcaster to the group with the text “the one in the public eye I want”.

Mr Nelson, who told the court he had assumed a fake identity to engage with the defendant directly, said he replied “nice”, before then speaking with Mr Plumb in a private chat.

The officer told the jury: “He said ‘I know when she gets up in the morning’, as well as not having security cameras where she was.

“I felt there was an imminent threat to this individual. It’s very rare for an individual to post they have some potential information,” Mr Nelson said.

He confirmed he had held a “meeting” with “representatives from the FBI” because of his concerns.

grey placeholderJULIA QUENZLER/BBC Court sketch of Gavin PlumbJULIA QUENZLER/BBC

Mr Plumb sat with his head bowed as Mr Nelson gave his evidence via a video link from the US

The court was told that Mr Plumb sent Mr Nelson a video of a “kidnap kit” he had assembled, including hand and ankle shackles, a rope and a ball gag.

“He also indicated he had chloroform. I asked where the chloroform was and he sent me a photograph,” Mr Nelson added.

‘Significantly overweight’

During his cross-examination by Sasha Wass KC, who is defending Mr Plumb, Mr Nelson said he did not initially know who Ms Willoughby was.

Ms Wass suggested the Kik group involved “vile material but nonetheless amounting to fantasy”.

Mr Nelson responded “correct”, and said he was “trying to determine” if Mr Plumb’s alleged plot was fantasy or “something more for him”.

Ms Wass put it to Mr Nelson that he could see Mr Plumb was “significantly overweight” from pictures he had been sent.

She suggested this discounted the credibility of Mr Plumb’s plan to “jump the outer wall” of Willoughby’s house.

Ms Wass asked: “Knowing what he looked like and the state of his dimensions, did that cause you to revaluate the credibility of this plan?”

Mr Nelson responded: “No, it did not.”

Mr Plumb’s defence is expected to start on Friday. The trial continues.

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