Security guard planned to take Holly Willoughby to ‘dungeon’, court told

A shopping centre security officer planned to kidnap TV presenter Holly Willoughby and take her to a “dungeon” where her “screams can’t be heard for miles”, a court heard.

Gavin Plumb is accused of hatching a plot to kidnap, rape and solicit the murder of the star, and allegedly considered trying to get employment as her security guard to get close to her.

A court heard that the 37-year-old described it as his “ultimately fantasy” to kidnap Ms Willoughby, adding: “Fantasy isn’t enough anymore. I want the real thing.”

Gavin Plumb court case
Gavin Plumb’s trial began at Chelmsford Crown Court on Monday (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Chelmsford Crown Court was told Plumb discussed with others online about how Ms Willoughby’s desire to avoid him going near her children would be an “extra reason for her to be obedient”.

Prosecutors said that in his online discussions, using a username identifying himself as “BigBear”, the defendant spoke of how she would be killed and “disposed” of.

As Metropolitan Police officers arrested the “shocked” defendant at his home, and explained to him he was accused of a conspiracy to kidnap Ms Willoughby, Plumb replied: “I’m not gonna lie, she is a fantasy of mine”.

Voice messages were played to a jury which were sent to a man named Marc in which Plumb said he would “pick out outfits for her we like” and spoke about the use of chloroform.

One voice message said: “We’re then going to force her to make a video that she came with us under her own free will… so that covers us.”

Jurors were told the defendant, who is alleged to have developed an obsession with the star over a number of years, had 10,322 photos of her on his phone.

The court heard he boasted of his previous convictions and jail time for false imprisonment and attempted kidnap in order to “bolster his credibility”.

Prosecutors allege that his past convictions – including tying a 16-year-old girl’s hands behind her back with rope and tape, and the attempted kidnap of women on a train with the threat of a gun – showed he knew “what it would take to terrify and overpower a woman”.

Ms Willoughby has waived her right to anonymity in connection with an accusation against Plumb of assisting or encouraging rape.

Alleged victims of sex offences or targets of sex offence conspiracies have a right to automatic anonymity for life from the moment an allegation is made by them or anyone else.

Chelmsford Crown Court, a beige stone building
The trial is being held at Chelmsford Crown Court (Joe Giddens/PA)

Jurors were told Plumb had unwittingly hatched “graphic” plans to kidnap, rape and murder Ms Willoughby with an undercover police officer from the US.

In his exchanges with the officer, who went by the name David Nelson, Plumb said: “I know when she does and don’t have security and that she doesn’t have CCTV at home – what time she gets up in the morning.”

He also told the officer, from the Owatonna Police Department in Minnesota, that he was “definitely serious” about his plans.

The plans allegedly involved attempting to “ambush” the presenter at her family home and Plumb is accused of discussing taking time off work in order to work on the plot.

The court heard that Plumb had accumulated “many hundreds” of images of Ms Willoughby that he had accessed online, and his “obsessive behaviour extended to other celebrities and to women who lived in his local area”.

Jurors were also told he had shared “deepfake pornography images of Holly Willoughby” online with Marc, which were “highly sexualised”.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan KC said Plumb told Marc: “Restraining and getting her has been my ultimate fantasy for way too long.

“I’m now at the point that fantasy isn’t enough any more. I want the real thing.”

Plumb is charged with soliciting a man, David Nelson, to commit murder, and encouraging or assisting kidnap and rape.

The defendant is alleged to have conspired online with the man he knew as Mr Nelson, who was to travel to the UK from the US and created a “detailed plan” to carry out the offences.

Ms Morgan told the court that Plumb had purchased items such as metal cable ties, which would “assist him in carrying out the attack”.

She said the defendant “commented on the appearance of women in a degrading manner”.

In her opening remarks to the jury on Monday, she said: “The prosecution alleges that this defendant planned to commit a violent sexual attack on Holly Willoughby.

“There can be no sensible doubt but that this defendant was obsessed with Holly Willoughby for some time leading up to these allegations in October 2023.

“Indeed that’s exactly what he said to the police officers when they arrested him. That obsession went beyond fantasy.

“He spent hours planning an attack on Holly Willoughby that involved violence, rape and ultimately… murder.”

Ms Morgan continued: “He had sought to kidnap and to imprison other real women. Using a real weapon and real methods of restraint, terrifying real women.

“You may come to the conclusion in this case… that he was actually in fact unlikely to be successful.

“But importantly that does not mean that it was not intended by him.

“He may not ultimately have succeeded, he may not have been in a position to do what he obviously wanted to do,

“You may conclude that he was unlikely to have been able to get Holly Willoughby out of her house without detection or interruption such that he would have been in a position to commit the violent and sexual attack that he had planned so carefully.

“However, the fact that the plan may have been likely to fail at some point does not mean that the defendant was not sincere in his desire and intention to carry out such an attack, seeking to enlist others to maximise the chance of success and going so far as to acknowledge that a custodial sentence was likely to be the consequence of his actions.

“It does not mean that he did not want others to be involved, it does not mean that it was not real.”

Outlining how Plumb came to be arrested, Ms Morgan said: “What the defendant did not know then was that the person that he was communicating with online was an undercover police officer based in the USA and not, in fact, a like-minded abductor.

“The defendant’s planning of the offences was then interrupted and he was arrested by the police.

“The prosecution’s case is that the online discussions that this defendant had revealed his real intentions to carry out a plot to kidnap Holly Willoughby from her family home, to take her to a location where she would be raped repeatedly, before the defendant then intended to kill her.

“It was not just the ramblings of a fantasist.

“The defendant had carefully planned what he would do and how he would do it, purchasing items that would assist him in carrying out that attack.”

Ms Morgan added: “It’s likely in this trial he will say this is all just fantasy.

“You will consider, is this the talk of a fantasist or is this someone who expresses himself with such dark depravity that it is clear that he meant what he said?”

Ms Willoughby, 43, announced in October last year that she was stepping down from This Morning after 14 years on the ITV show.

She said in a social media post at the time that she felt “I have to make this decision for me and my family”.

The presenter has since hosted Dancing On Ice 2024 and will present a Netflix show, to be released next year, in which adventurer Bear Grylls hunts down celebrities in the jungle.

Plumb, of Harlow, Essex, denies all the charges.

The trial, which is expected to last for two weeks, continues.