Kidnap ordeal of salesman robbery victim

A SALESMAN was subjected to a terrifying ordeal when he was kidnapped on his rounds and held prisoner in his vehicle while £35,000 worth of tools were stolen.

Leeds Crown Court heard yesterday that James Allen, a self- employed franchisee for Snap on Tools, was handcuffed and kept for four hours after he was attacked in his van in August 2009 when he responded to a call from a potential client.

He arranged to meet the man, who gave the name Danny, in Sherburn-in-Elmet, near Tadcaster but the person who turned up was Robert Ratcliffe, who after pretending interest in the tools inside suddenly grabbed Mr Allen and threw him to the floor in the van.

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He used a pair of handcuffs to secure his victim’s hands behind his back and then bound his ankles and mouth with tape while claiming to be an undercover police officer looking for stolen goods.

Colin Harvey, prosecuting, told the court Ratcliffe mentioned being from “scenes of crime” and going to Millgarth police station in Leeds but over the next four hours the tachograph on Mr Allen’s vehicle showed a different picture as it was driven around with eight to 10 stops.

Mr Allen could hear mobile phone calls being made and realised it was being driven wildly because tools were falling off the racks on to him. Most of the time did not know where he was although at one stage he saw a bus stop in Drighlington, Leeds.

Soon after that Ratcliffe became concerned he might see where he was and got into the back of the van using a strap to string Mr Allen by his arms in a position where he could not see out before continuing on the journey.

Mr Harvey said Mr Allen was in extreme pain and became particularly fearful about what was going to happen after hearing Ratcliffe talk of torching the vehicle when they got to Farnley, Leeds: “You can imagine the torment he was in.”

Eventually to his relief, however the robber decided to let him go and told him to walk away and not look back.

A couple driving along Cross Lane, Farnley, at 5pm that day were flagged down by a desperate Mr Allen who was panicking and hyperventilating after his ordeal.

When the van was found most of the tools on board were gone. Mr Allen although not physically badly hurt needed time off to get over the psychological trauma.

Mr Harvey said police got information about the robbery through Crimestoppers and Ratcliffe was arrested in February last year. He had worn surgical gloves but mistakenly left his prints on the tape he used.

In September last year while on bail he then assaulted his girlfriend Michelle Wilcock.

Mr Harvey said she had noticed a tattoo on Ratcliffe’s arm and wanted to know how much it had cost, since he was on benefits and she bore the brunt of household costs.

He got up punched her in the face and dragged her around the room before ramming her head into the wall twice, leaving a hole. She was drifting in and out of consciousness and was later taken to hospital.

Ratcliffe, 26, of Wellstone Avenue, Bramley, Leeds was jailed for a total of eight years after he admitted robbery, kidnap and assault.

Sentencing him Judge Scott Wolstenholme said the assault was nasty, while Ratcliffe had subjected Mr Allen “to what must have been an absolutely terrifying experience.”

After being handcuffed he was driven about the county while the tools were disposed of before fearing he was going to be in the van when it was torched. “He must have been severely emotionally traumatised by the incident.”

Stephen Grattage, for Ratcliffe, said he committed the robbery after he was approached by others.