Holly Willoughby kidnap plotter ‘thought he had found likeminded helper’

Security guard Gavin Plumb “would have been able to carry out” his plot against Holly Willoughby if he had found a “likeminded person” online “which he thought he had done”, a detective warned.

Plumb, 37, stood trial at Chelmsford Crown Court accused of a scheme to kidnap, rape and murder the former This Morning presenter.

He denied all charges but jurors found him guilty of soliciting murder, incitement to rape and incitement to kidnap.

Gavin Plumb court case
Police body-worn video footage of the arrest of Gavin Plumb (Essex Police/PA)

Detective Chief Inspector Greg Wood of Essex Police said that Plumb thought he had found a likeminded person online, but it was actually a US undercover police officer using the alias David Nelson.

Mr Wood, who was the senior investigating officer in the case, said the UK force was contacted by the FBI and they were able to disrupt Plumb’s plot.

But he warned that there “isn’t an undercover police officer online in every space”, and there is a “responsibility on all of us including social media companies to really regulate what goes on online”.

He said local officers raided Plumb’s flat in Harlow, Essex on October 4 last year where they discovered a “whole array of evidence” including chloroform, cable ties and handcuffs.

Asked what may have happened if Plumb was not disrupted, Mr Wood said: “We have to think the worst.

“His planning, his preparation, his intent was clear.

Gavin Plumb court case
A bottle of chloroform, shown to Chelmsford Crown Court in the court case of Gavin Plumb (CPS/PA)

“All I can say is we’re grateful to our law enforcement colleagues who saw a threat, shared the information really quickly with us and we were able to take action really swiftly to prevent anything happening not just to Holly Willoughby but to anybody else.”

The detective said Plumb “led a relatively isolated life”.

“The majority of his life was spent online and we’ve seen through his online presence, his conversations online in some really horrible online forums, that he spent a lot of time talking to people online,” he said.

“I’ve got no doubt that his plans, if he found a likeminded person which he thought he had done with our American law enforcement colleague, he would have been able to carry out his plans.”

He said that the undercover officer, using a fake identity, found Plumb in an online forum.

Mr Wood said the undercover officer “had some conversations with (Plumb) and he was so fearful of what he was threatening to do that he deemed it necessary to contact UK law enforcement through the FBI immediately”.

Gavin Plumb court case
A photo of a ‘kit’ possessed by Gavin Plumb, shown to jurors at Chelmsford Crown Court during his trial (CPS/PA)

“That’s incredibly rare,” said the detective.

“We regularly share information with international law enforcement colleagues but for an officer to contact us and necessitate immediate action from us is incredibly, incredibly rare and shows how fearful he was of Gavin Plumb and what he might do.”

He said that as soon as Essex Police received the information through the FBI, it deployed local officers in Harlow “immediately” to Plumb’s address.

“He was at home,” Mr Wood said.

“He was arrested immediately where we found a whole array of evidence at his address.

“He was on the phone at the time to the undercover officer in America engaging in that conversation.

Gavin Plumb court case
A photo of handcuffs, shown to jurors at Chelmsford Crown Court during Gavin Plumb’s trial (CPS/PA)

“When we searched his address we found a whole array of items that we think he was going to use to kidnap Holly Willoughby.

“As soon as we arrested Gavin Plumb he told us he had a fascination with Holly Willoughby but we know it was far more than that.

“At the address we found cable ties, we found handcuffs, we found chloroform.

“All really unusual things to find at an address.

“They all show us he was clearly intent on following through with his plan.”

He said that “colleagues from the Metropolitan Police spoke to Holly Willoughby and visited her on the night just to make her aware of what was happening and we’ve supported her throughout as we would support any victim of such a horrible crime”.

Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Gavin Plumb (left) appearing at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court
Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook of Gavin Plumb (left) appearing at Chelmsford Magistrates’ Court (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Mr Wood added: “I can only imagine what it’s like to be a victim of such a crime.”

Asked about Plumb’s defence in court, that his online conversations with the undercover officer had been fantasy, the detective said:  “Look at his previous convictions.”

He continued: “He’s tried to kidnap females on a train, real people, real women.

“At (a shop)… he tried to (falsely imprison) real women, real people.

“I’ve got no doubt he’s a violent individual and this conviction keeps the wider public safe.”

He said he thought it “clear what Gavin Plumb’s intentions were”.

“You’ve seen in the evidence that he planned his attack, he researched his attack, he bought items to help achieve his aim and he tried to find likeminded people to carry out his crimes,” said Mr Wood.

“He was determined, I’ve got no doubt, to carry out the crimes he was going to commit.

“We were fortunate in this case that our law enforcement colleague was online in America but there isn’t an undercover police officer online in every space.

“Gavin Plumb was working in an overt chat forum, it was called Abduct Lovers, so it’s not covert.

“There’s a responsibility on all of us including social media companies to really regulate what goes on online.”