A fantasist who kidnapped a model by tricking her into believing she would be killed by Russian spies has been jailed for nine years.
Stephen Webber, 41, brainwashed pretty Laura Chapman, 26, after she contacted him in a bid to further her modelling career.
He told her that she was going to recruited by MI5 and a Russian hitman called ‘Efjania’ had been instructed to assassinate her.
The oddball claimed they had both been infected with a killer virus and the girl was so convinced she wrote a ‘goodbye’ letter to her family.
She was so terrified she stayed with Webber for a week as they moved between various hotels along the south coast of England, sparking a huge police hunt.
They were eventually traced to a woodland in Eastbourne, East Sussex, and the girl’s first words to officers were: “Are you police? Am I safe?”.
Webber was convicted of kidnap, causing grievous bodily harm, making threats to kill and criminal damage at Hove Crown Court and jailed for nine years.
Richard Barton, prosecuting, described the case as “kidnapping by fraud” and said Webber was “intelligent and plausible”.
The court heard how Miss Chapman contacted Webber in July last year to discuss some modelling shots.
But he told he she was going to be recruited by MI5 and made her watch the television programme Spooks about spies as the beginning of her “training”.
He then tied her to a chair and blindfolded her in what he claimed was the “interrogation room” of a “safe house” – which was actually his friend’s home in Portslade, East Sussex.
Over the next six days he took her to a string of hotels, telling her a series of increasingly elaborate lies.
Mr Barton said Webber twice stabbed Miss Chapman, so she suffered scratches, tried to strangle her, pushed her and lied to her boyfriend and family.
She was so convinced by his story about the killer virus that she wrote a farewell letter.
Mr Barton said: “The contents would be laughable if she did not absolutely believe it.”
Webber frequently staged imaginary conversations on the phone with contacts at MI5.
“He talked about ‘shooting to kill’,” said Mr Barton. “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.”
The pair were in woodland in Eastbourne, discussing a plan to fake Miss Chapman’s death and send the photographs to Efjania when they heard police sirens.
Mr Barton said Miss Chapman’s first words were: “Are you police? Am I safe? Why have you not found me until now? I have not slept for five days.”
After the sentencing Detective Inspector Mick Jones said: “Stephen Webber is clearly a dangerous individual whose deceit and manipulation led a vulnerable young woman into believing that he was a spy for MI5 and that they were both in life threatening danger.
“This led to the victim being too frightened to leave him over a five day period in which they travelled to Eastbourne, staying in local accommodation whilst their alleged pursuers hunted for them.
“The victim was so fearful of the situation presented by Webber that she was too afraid to attempt to escape.”