Accused says 'no plan' to kidnap Holly Willoughby

Holly Willoughby at the National Television Awards
Holly Willoughby will not be giving live evidence at the trial [Getty Images]

A security guard accused of plotting to abduct, rape and murder TV presenter Holly Willoughby has admitted in court his chat room messages were "dark" but there was "no plan" to carry them out.

Gavin Plumb, 37, said online conversations allegedly describing his "ultimate fantasy" were "not the sort of route I would normally go down".

Giving evidence at his trial at Chelmsford Crown Court, Mr Plumb said with hindsight his messages were "massively regrettable" and carrying out those fantasies was "something I knew that was never going to happen".

The defendant, from Harlow, Essex, denies soliciting murder, inciting kidnap and inciting rape.

He is alleged to have masterminded a plot that involved taking Ms Willoughby, best known for presenting ITV's This Morning programme, by force from her home and keeping her in a "dungeon".

Giving evidence earlier, Mr Plumb said he had often frequented online chat rooms that acted as "fantasy sites".

Asked by his defence barrister Sasha Wass KC what he fantasised about, Mr Plumb said: "Having sex with other people.

"It would be people that other people know or a celeb - or it would be random people."

Court sketch of Gavin Plumb sat at the witness box
Gavin Plumb said he was unable to stand while giving evidence at Chelmsford Crown Court [Julia Quenzler/BBC]

The jury heard the defendant had bought a bondage kit in 2014 that included a set of handcuffs, which he said was to "rekindle my relationship with my ex-partner".

Ms Wass also asked her client about two bottles of chloroform he had bought.

"Did you intend to use it to incapacitate anyone?" she asked.

The defendant replied: "No."

He added that it had been purchased to clean a "large stain next to my fridge".

He conceded that his internet conversations were "coming across" like a genuine plot, but told jurors: "There's no plan."

'Stewardess fantasy'

Mr Plumb was challenged on his two previous convictions for attempted kidnap in 2006 and another two offences of false imprisonment committed in 2008.

He said he had a "stewardess fantasy" at the time he tried to force two air hostesses to get off a train in the space of three days in August 2006.

The defendant was handed a sentence of 12 months, suspended for two years, for his first offences, before he was jailed for 32 months for the false imprisonments.

Gavin Plumb
Gavin Plumb said his weight - which at its highest reached 35.5st (225kg) - affected his mental health throughout his life [BBC]

The 37-year-old claimed his offences were a "cry for help" as he "needed to get out" of a toxic relationship.

Asked by prosecutor Alison Morgan KC what it felt like "when you put that tape around the wrists of that girl" in a shop in 2008, Mr Plumb replied: "I was scared."

'Massively regrettable'

The trial was previously told that Mr Plumb "spent many hours planning an attack" on Ms Willoughby "that would involve violence, rape and ultimately murder".

He is alleged to have shared these plans with two other people online, including a vision of using chloroform to incapacitate the broadcaster after breaking into her house.

Asked about the allegations, Mr Plumb admitted he had "dark" chats about her online after watching her on daytime TV.

"It's not the sort of route I would normally go down for a chat, but it was a chat that I was having," the defendant said.

"Looking back at it now, it's something that is massively regrettable because it's not the usual chat I would participate in."

When asked why he continued to participate, Mr Plumb responded: "It's going to sound really bad, but it was gratification.

"It was something I knew that was never going to happen, I'm just passing the time chatting."

Gavin Plumb's bedroom
The jury was shown an image of Gavin Plumb's bedroom, where it is alleged he masterminded the plot from [CPS]

The defendant said he was "regularly friend-zoned" in his teenage years - told by girls he fancied that they would only ever be friends.

Mr Plumb added that Ms Willoughby was his "celebrity crush" and that he would sometimes think about her "four, five, six times a day".

The defendant said his mental health had previously been affected by his weight "fluctuating" from the age of 13 - peaking at 35.5st (225kg).

"I physically couldn't move without being in pain or breathless," he told jurors.

He added that in 2014 he gained an interest in bondage during sex.

Mr Plumb claimed that was why he had hand and ankle shackles, a rope and a ball gag at his home when the police arrested him in October 2023.

'Disgusted, heartbroken and shocked'

Being cross-examined by prosecutor Alison Morgan KC, Mr Plumb said he had "no ill feelings in any way, shape or form" towards Ms Willoughby.

"I completely regret this chat, I am absolutely disgusted it has come out," he said.

"Of course, I’m sorry for the context of the chat, absolutely - I'm disgusted, I'm heartbroken and shocked it has come out as it was meant to be an online chat."

Police in Potters Field, Harlow
Police officers attended Mr Plumb's property in Potters Field, Harlow, after receiving intelligence from a police officer based in the US [Supplied]

Ms Morgan said: "You are discussing a plan where Holly Willoughby will be kidnapped, raped repeatedly and then killed."

Mr Plumb responded: "There is no plan".

The prosecutor later added: "Your sexual desires were completely out of control to the point you couldn’t stop yourself.

"This was the ultimate fulfilment of that, wasn’t it?"

Mr Plumb answered "no" to both of Ms Morgan's statements.

The trial has been told that Mr Plumb's arrest was made after he disclosed his alleged plot online to an undercover police officer from the US.

The officer, who gave evidence on Thursday, notified the FBI of the defendant's "alarming" plan before UK authorities were informed.

The trial continues.

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