Construction workers kidnapped and robbed of £77,000

Grant Prior 1 year ago
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Two men who kidnapped and robbed two construction workers after luring them to a remote location and forcing them to hand over £77,000 have been jailed.

Christopher Griffiths (left) and Norman Hitchings
Christopher Griffiths (left) and Norman Hitchings

In mid-June 2021, the victims – who work for a London-based construction company – were contacted by someone claiming to be “Lee Kennedy”.

“Kennedy” said he was looking to develop some land and wanted the company to view it before creating some designs for building development.

Over the following two weeks, emails went back and forth, and an arrangement was made for them all to meet in Leverington, near Wisbech, where they would then go on to view the nearby land.

The victims met 59-year-old Norman Hitchings – who they believed to be Kennedy – who offered to take them to the land in his BMW X5.

For the next five to six minutes, Hitchings drove at high speed to a remote apple orchard before getting out of the car and walking into the trees and returning with three other men – one now known to be 45-year-old Christopher Griffiths.

All four men were wearing bandanas across their faces and carrying weapons.

The victims were forced on the ground and had their hands cable-tied behind their backs before having their wallets and mobile phones taken from them.

Hitchings leant over one of the victims and said “you owe Lee Lee Builders 77 grand, pay now or else”, placing a knife to the man’s throat.

He was handed back his phone while Hitchings watched him transfer £77,000 over to another bank account.

After the transfer had been made, one of the men threatened “I know where you work and where you live, so don’t call the police”.

All four men made off in Hitchings’ BMW, leaving the two men stranded and cable tied. They eventually managed to free themselves and made it to a nearby farm where police were called.

Detectives identified a “burner” mobile phone used to contact the victims, as belonging to Hitchings, who was caught on CCTV topping it up on several occasions. The BMW was also traced back to him, however it was found to have been on stolen plates.

Phone data also tracked his movements which matched up to around the time of the kidnap and robbery.

Enquiries were carried out into the email address used by the suspects to contact the victims, which revealed an “IP” address connected to Wi-Fi atthe home address of Griffiths.

The pair were found guilty of two counts of conspiracy to commit robbery and two counts of kidnap following a nine-day trial at Peterborough Crown Court in April. Griffiths was also found guilty of fraud.

On Tuesday they both appeared at Peterborough Crown Court where Hitchings, of no fixed address, was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Griffiths, of Brudenell, Orton Goldhay, was also jailed for 10 years.

Detective Constable Craig Trevor, of the Acquisitive Crime Team, who investigated, said: “This was a well-planned and orchestrated robbery where two businessmen were lured to a secluded location through a fake land development deal.

“Hitchings and Griffiths thought they had sufficiently concealed their criminal actions using fake identities, fake email addresses, burner phones and stolen vehicle index plates to commit the offences.

“This case only made it to a court room due to the bravery of the two victims coming forward and disclosing to police their horrendous ordeal, where they suffered extreme calculated violence followed by 22 months of intensive investigation.

“I am pleased we could achieve some justice for the victims in the sentencing of Griffiths and Hitchings today and with the assistance of specialist financial investigators, we managed to recover the stolen £77,000 and return it to the victims.

“This was organised criminality and I hope the sentencing today sends a clear message that police forces across the UK work together and bring to justice those who choose to commit organised crime for their own personal gain.”

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