An estate agent who was kidnapped by a West Yorkshire heating engineer 25 years ago, following a notorious murder case, has died at 50 after a short battle with cancer.
Stephanie Slater was kept captive by Michael Sams for eight days after being held at knifepoint during a house viewing in Birmingham. She was freed after the payment of a ransom.
Ms Slater later helped to convict Sams of the 1991 murder of Leeds teenager Julie Dart by giving evidence at Nottingham Crown Court, telling the jury had been held blindfolded in a makeshift “coffin”.
Then aged 26, Ms Slater said she had attempted to befriend her kidnapper in an effort to make it more difficult for him to harm her.
In a statement issued through West Midlands Police, her best friend Stacey Kettner paid tribute to her.
Ms Kettner said: “We have had a unique and epic friendship for over 25 years and shared so much together, good and bad times.
“I know that she truly never got over the events that changed her life so dramatically in January 1992. It’s been an honour and a privilege to be Stephanie’s best friend.”
ITV reporter Keith Wilkinson, a friend of Ms Slater who made a documentary about her ordeal, said she died after being taken ill near her home on the Isle of Wight.
Mr Wilkinson told ITV News that she never got over what she went through and suffered terrible nightmares and great trauma.
“I was very upset when I heard Stephanie was seriously ill,” he said.
“The last time I saw her on the Isle of Wight to do some filming a few years ago, she was quite upbeat and positive.
“She could sometimes be hysterically funny and had many passions. She was mad about space and astronomy and once we took her to do some filming at Jodrell Bank radio telescope, which she absolutely loved.”
Mr Wilkinson added that the crimes committed against Ms Slater also had an awful impact on her parents.
After her ordeal, she worked with police forces across the country to help them understand how to treat kidnap victims, also working with victims themselves to help them overcome their experiences.
A police spokesman said: “West Midlands Police would also like to pay tribute to Stephanie’s courage and bravery over the years and for the work she did in helping police officers and victims by sharing her experience.”
Speaking in 2011, Ms Slater said of her kidnapping: “Before this happened, I had a boyfriend, a job and a company car. I had loads of friends and a great social life. But he (Sams) took everything and destroyed the next 20 years of my life.
“But now I am ready to begin again. Most people begin their lives in their 20s or 30s but those years of my life were destroyed.”
Her adoptive mother died several years ago and her adoptive father died last year.