An unemployed photographer who 'brainwashed' a model into believing that she was about to be killed by Russian secret agents before kidnapping her has been jailed.
Stephen Webber, 41, of Portslade, East Sussex, persuaded 26-year old Laura Chapman that he was an MI5 agent after she initially contacted him to take some shots for modelling work.
He convinced her that the intelligence agency also wanted to recruit her, and made her watch episodes of the BBC spy drama Spooks. He then took her to a 'safe house' in Portslade, East Sussex, which was really a friend's home, where he blindfolded and tied her up as part of her 'training'.
Webber said that they had both been infected by a killer virus and that Russian assassin called Efjania was pursuing them and they had to flee.
The pair spent the next six days staying in cheap hotels on the south coast.
Prosecuting, Richard Barton told Hove Crown Court that Webber's lies were "intelligent and plausible".
"He talked about 'shooting to kill'. He collapsed on the ground in shock on hearing that colleagues had been killed. She was terrified. He took her phone and bank card. He was in control."
Webber smothered her with a pillow, scratched her and pushed her, and dictated messages for her to send to her relatives assuring them that she was all right.
He also pretended to take a number of calls from fellow MI5 agents.
Chapman was so convinced that her life was in danger that she even wrote a farewell note to friends and family.
Police tracked the pair down to woods outside Eastbourne and Chapman's first words to police were: "Are you police? Am I safe? Why have you not found me until now? I haven't slept for five days."
In sentencing, His Honour Judge Peter De-Mille described Webber, of Portslade, East Sussex, as "manipulative" and "a danger to the public, especially women".
Webber was sentenced to nine years in prison for each of the kidnap, threats and grievous bodily harm offences, all to run concurrently, and to six months for the criminal damage offence.
To contact the editor, e-mail: