An Ashford man who faked his own kidnap to con his victims into handing over thousands of pounds has been jailed for two years and four months.
Christopher Sellman created an elaborate series of lies to obtain cash from two people known to him, claiming that his life was in danger and he was being held to ransom. However he was caught out when detectives compared his own text messages and that of his supposed captors, and noticed they both had the same spelling and grammar mistakes.
On 15 February 2021, both victims received social media messages from an unrecognised phone number, containing a photograph of Sellman with a razor blade being held to his throat.
The accompanying message appeared to be from someone who said they had kidnapped Sellman and that he would only be released if the victims paid money into a bank account, which was controlled by the defendant.
Concerned for Sellman’s safety, the victims did as requested. However the following day they received more messages saying that the 23-year-old owed his kidnappers more money. Again the victims stepped in to help Sellman.
The demands continued throughout the month. On 24 February, the victims received another message demanding cash, this time accompanied with a photo of Sellman with a gun in his mouth. The victims paid £1,000 in response.
On 15 March another set of threatening messages arrived, with a further demand for money. When the victims responded that they had no more money, they were threatened with violence and told the “kidnappers” knew where the victims lived, prompting them to call Kent Police.
More messages were sent to the victims, including photos of the defendant with a crossbow to his face, a razor blade to the back of his head and a video in which someone could be seen repeatedly forcing his head underwater.
During the ordeal the victims changed their phone numbers, but instead they began to get messages sent via email and social media platforms. In total the victims paid in the region of £10,000 in the belief both they and Sellman could come to harm otherwise.
Detectives reviewing the messages identified similarities between messages sent by Sellman and those of the kidnappers. Officers attended Sellman’s former Ashford address where he was arrested on suspicion of blackmail on 24 March. Weapons matching those seen in the photos, as well as mobile phones containing the threatening messages were recovered from the property.
He, along with his former partner were both charged with blackmail offences the following day.
Sellman, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty and was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court on Thursday 2 September.
His partner aged 28, from Ashford, received an 18-month custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months, after she admitted her part in the blackmail plot.
Investigating officer PC Edward Pegg said: ‘Sellman showed an appalling abuse of trust for those who care about him, faking his own kidnap and torture for money to spend on sports clothing and takeaways.
‘The victims were terrified of the consequences if they didn’t pay, their only concern being to protect Sellman.
‘My thoughts are with the victims, and I hope they are able to look forward and take the time they need to recover from this incident.’