Leeds van man’s ride terror kidnap

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A KIDNAPPER handcuffed and gagged a salesman and took him on four-hour terror ride.

Robert Ratcliffe then threatened to set fire to his victim’s van with him inside after stealing all his merchandise.

Ratcliffe of Wellstone Avenue, Bramley was jailed for eight years after a Leeds Crown Court judge heard he left John Allen traumatised.

Ratcliffe – a leukaemia sufferer who now faces two years of chemotherapy behind bars – duped Snap On Tools franchisee Mr Allen into meeting him in Sherburn in Elmet near Selby on the pretence of buying tools.

Instead Ratcliffe, 26, overpowered Mr Allen before he handcuffed him, bound his feet and gagged him with tape.

He bundled Mr Allen inside his own van and at one point strung him up on a rack of tools with his arms forced behind his back.

Ratcliffe drove erratically around West Yorkshire for four hours and stopped numerous times to offload the £35,000 worth of tools to accomplices, who were never traced.

Prosecutor Colin Harvey said during the terror ride Ratcliffe claimed he was an undercover scenes of crimes police officer and was on his way to Millgarth Police Station in Leeds.

After four hours, Ratcliffe stopped and told his victim, who was traumatised and in pain, he planned to torch the van.

But Ratcliffe finally released Mr Allen on Cross Lane at Farnley, Leeds.

A couple in a passing car spotted him panicking and hyperventilating and alerted police during the incident in August 2009.

Ratcliffe wore surgical gloves during the kidnap in a bid to evade detection, but police found one of his prints on a roll of gaffa tape found in the van.

He initially denied the offences after he was arrested last February.

But the court heard he later admitted kidnap and robbery.

Prosecutor Mr Harvey said while Ratcliffe was on bail he punched mother-of-three Michelle Wilcock, his partner of two years, in the face and twice rammed her head into a wall as his victim’s 13-year-old daughter watched in horror.

Ratcliffe admitted the assault.

Ratcliff’s lawyer, Stephen Grattage said Ratcliff told police: “What I did was not nice, I upset him.”

Ms Wilcock said after the sentencing hearing that Ratcliffe has been fighting cancer since 2009 and is undergoing treatment in prison. She added: “I have been supporting him, but he is a compulsive liar who has manipulated my good nature for a long time. He deserves what he got.”

Alex Newman, partner at Irwin Mitchell in Leeds

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