Gang seized man off Coventry street at gunpoint and cut off his finger as part of ransom demand, court told
A ruthless gang held a man hostage after snatching him from the street at gunpoint and cut off one of his fingers to back up their ransom demands to his family, a court heard.
The gang was caught after the police raided the address in Coventry where the victim Damion Lowe was being held and at the crown court in Leamington six of them admitted their involvement.
But four other men, Ismaeel Akbar, 32, of Kingsbury Road, Tipton; Yusuf Akbar, 33, of Wynn Street, Edgbaston, Birmingham: Ralph McLeod, 37, of Belmont Road, Courthouse Green, Coventry; and Lewis Poyser, 24, of Dovedale Avenue, Longford,Coventry, denied charges of false imprisonment, blackmail and grievous bodily harm with intent.
Prosecutor Jonas Hankin QC told the jury: “This young man was taken from the street in broad daylight at gunpoint by men wearing balaclavas and bundled into a van and taken to a lock-up garage where he was held for 36 hours and was bound and gagged and beaten with a metal bar and kicked.
“To enforce the gang’s demand for money, when they met resistance from the hostage’s family over their demand for amounts of up to £60,000, they cut off his finger.
“The finger they cut off was left near the place where he was kidnapped, as a warning sign to his family that they meant business; and on day two they went to Birmingham to collect the money at a pre-arranged location.”
Then after the money had been collected, the victim was ‘unceremoniously dumped in a ditch.’
Mr Hankin said events began on Monday September 30 last year when, as Mr Lowe was chatting to friends in Milverton Road, Wood End, Coventry, a Vauxhall Combo van pulled up near them.
“The rear doors flew open and three men got out wearing balaclavas; and one of them had a handgun which he pointed at Damion Lowe’s face and said ‘If you move, I’ll kill you.’
“The other two grabbed him and bundled him into the van; a pillowcase was put over his head and he was struck with fists, hit with a metal bar and kicked.”
The van was concealed in a lock-up garage at the rear of Poyser’s home in Dovedale Avenue – and Mr Lowe was held captive in the van, where a knife with his blood on was later found.
His hands and ankles were bound with duct tape, and tape was put over his eyes and mouth – and he was held there, without food or water, for around 36 hours.
Before the kidnapping, Poyser had driven to Northampton to pick up Anthony McLeod and drive him back to Dovedale Avenue, where Mr Lowe heard one of his captors saying ‘Ralph said.’
A man then got into the van and demanded his brother’s phone number, which he could not remember and gave them the number of a friend instead, and he was told: “If your family don’t give us the cash, I’ll kill you.”
Another of the gang, Lemar Grant, whose voice Mr Lowe recognised, then told him he would be alright as long as his family did as they were told and paid £60,000.
By then the police had been alerted by the friends Mr Lowe had been talking to when he was snatched, and officers who were in contact with his family were able to record blackmail demands made to one of his brothers, Michael Bourne, that night.
In one the caller, who had first demanded £11,000 and then £13,000 and some drugs, threatened: “Next time I call you, if there’s no money the little finger’s coming off.”
And Mr Hankin said: “Some time after that call the gang did cut off Damion’s little finger to show they meant business and to reinforce their demands.
“Three of the men got into the van. One of them got in behind him and held his arms round his face, the second man held his legs, and the third grabbed his hands.
“Despite his attempts to pull away, his finger was severed. He thinks it was with some sort of cutting instrument like scissors; but we do know it didn’t come off cleanly, so something was tied round part of his finger and it was pulled off.
“The severed stump was then burned, possibly with a cigarette lighter, perhaps to try to cauterize it.”
The finger was then put in a bag and left at a spot in Milverton Road to show his family they meant business – and the next day Mr Lowe was told he would be cut up because they were not paying up.
Further calls were made to the family on mobile phones which were traced to Akbar at his home in Tipton, and he was put under surveillance which soon led the police to Dovedale Avenue where they covertly filmed the comings and goings.
Akbar, Anthony McLeod, Kadeem Poyser, Jermaine Campbell and Ralph McLeod then travelled to Birmingham where they went to Nash House in Wynn Street, where Akbar’s brother Yusuf lived and where the ransom money was to be left.
Yusuf left the block and topped up his phone at a nearby shop before calling his brother and acting as lookout as Kenny Bourne, another of Mr Lowe’s brothers, arrived with the cash which one of the team picked up.
They returned to Dovedale Avenue in Kadeem’s Vauxhall Corsa, Akbar’s BMW and his brother’s Skoda, at 10.30pm.
Forty minutes later the Corsa was reversed up to the garage, Mr Lowe was hauled out of the back of the van, wrapped in a sheet and put into the boot.
The Corsa, in convoy with the BMW and the Skoda then drove in convoy to McDonnell Drive, Longford, where their captive was thrown out before they went back to Dovedale Avenue.
Armed police swooped on the house and arrested a number of the men, and others were arrested later.
They also seized £19,960 in cash including £5,000 on the floor of the hall, £1,000 from behind the TV and £13,960 from two bags on the kitchen worktop.
The jury has heard that Ricardo Grant, 24, of Watcombe Road, Henley Green, Coventry, who was named as the gunman, has pleaded guilty to kidnapping, having a firearm with intent, false imprisonment, blackmail and grievous bodily harm with intent.
Lemar Grant, 26, of Broad Park Road, Henley Green; Kofi Poyser, 23, of Dovedale Avenue; Kadeem Poyser, 21, of Browning Court, Wyken, Coventry; and Jermaine Campbell, 24, of Broad Park Road, have all admitted the same charges, while Anthony McLeod has admitted the blackmail, false imprisonment and grievous bodily harm offences.