A 41-year-old man who was found in Eastbourne after kidnaping, assaulting and threatening to kill a 26-year-old woman has been jailed for nine years.
Stephen Webber, unemployed and formerly of George William Mews in Portslade, was found guilty today (March 7) of kidnap, causing grievous bodily harm and threats to kill the Hove woman after a nine-day trial at Hove Crown Court. He was also found guilty of criminal damage at the same hearing.
He was sentenced to nine years imprisonment for each of the kidnap, threats and GBH offences, all to run concurrently, and to six months for the criminal damage offence - also to run concurrently with the nine years sentences.
He was ordered to serve a four-year extended licence period after his release from prison.
In sentencing Webber, Judge De-Mille described him as ‘manipulative’ and ‘a danger to the public’, especially women.
His arrest and prosecution followed police enquiries into the disappearance, on July 10 last year, of a 26-year old Hove woman who he had recently befriended on the pretext of taking modelling photos of her.
Following an intensive five-day police search they were found near Eastbourne on July 14. Webber was arrested and after medical treatment for minor injuries the victim returned to her family.
Detective Inspector Mick Jones said, “Stephen Webber is clearly a dangerous individual whose deceit and manipulation led a vulnerable young woman into believing that he was a spy for MI5 and that they were both in life threatening danger.
“This led to the victim being too frightened to leave him over a five day period in which they travelled to Eastbourne, staying in local accommodation whilst their alleged pursuers hunted for them.
“The victim was so fearful of the situation presented by Webber that she was too afraid to attempt to escape. This led to the victim writing a goodbye note to her family as she feared that she would be killed at any time.
“When the mask that he wore began to drop and it became clear to him that his deceit was no longer working on the victim, he tried to smother her with a pillow and caused injuries to her with a knife during a struggle.
“Police officers searching for the victim found her in Eastbourne in a distressed state with Webber who was arrested for kidnapping. “The courage of the victim in giving evidence in this case is worthy of tribute. The defendant by pleading not guilty put the victim through the trauma of reliving her ordeal, but she knew she had to in order to get justice and in doing so protect others from Webber.
“The jury clearly saw through Webber’s lies. The public need to be protected from people who prey on others and the police will pursue anyone who does in order to bring them to justice.”