Victor Cracknell kidnapped for a ransom

1989, Monday 14 August: Cracknell Kidnapping: Operation Tangerine: Leatherhead SIO John Milner:

Alan Radlett: Victor Cracknell lived in West Horsley (Guildford Division) with his wife and I think two children. He was personnel manager for a food distribution company owned by his father Desmond.

Victor was kidnapped at gunpoint during the early hours of the morning by a male intruder who bound and blindfolded him and drove him ultimately to a deserted spot on forestry commission land just south of Exeter in Devon where he was tied with a wire round his neck in a ravine. He was kept there for four days whilst the offender conducted negotiations with Desmond for a million pound ransom to be paid.

The negotiations resulted in a ransom being left on a footpath leading to the Hogs Back near Farnham. Regional Crime Squad officers conducted a surveillance operation once the ransom was collected and followed the offender to Devon. At about this time Cracknell was able to break free and raise the alarm. The offender was then arrested.

The offender, Keith John Rose was a disgruntled ex-employee of the company. He was interviewed by Detective Sergeant Colin Ward and myself and subsequently admitted the offence and later pleaded guilty at the Central Criminal Court.

He had no previous convictions but once in the system Devon and Cornwall police reopened an old murder file and despite strenuous denials, Rose was convicted of the murder of the wife of a Devon businessman Juliet Rowe some eight years previously, which was thought to have been an unsuccessful kidnap attempt.

John Milner was SIO and the file was prepared by Colin Ward.

Charlie Frost: Cracknell was the son of a food broker who negotiated with major suppliers on behalf of supermarkets to buy their products. The offender Rose took the son from Surrey and then tied him up in a remote location on Dartmoor. He then demanded a ransom. The ransom was collected in the small lay-by opposite the Hogs Back Hotel and was watched by myself and Wendy Clay.

We then followed him all the way down to Exeter where he was eventually arrested. He had no previous convictions but his fingerprints came up on the murder of a woman Juliet Rowe, in 1981 which was unsolved. It was likely he had tried to kidnap the woman the same way but it had gone wrong.

The kidnap victim Cracknell managed to free himself and escape off Dartmoor.

The offender Rose received fifteen years for the kidnapping and then life for the murder of Rowe. Keith Rose was one of the prisoners who escaped from Parkhurst on the Isle of Wight in 1996 and tried to take an aeroplane. Len Withall and Terry Hughes were involved.

The day after the job we all met at Exeter Police HQ and after a short de-briefing and having been up all night Terry Hughes told us all to go to bed at 2 pm. I told him I have not been told to go to bed since I was fourteen!

Ray Taylor: I have a video made by Surrey which covers the operation. Detective Sergeant Steve Haines who was stationed at Farnham, dealt with Victor Cracknell and spent a long time with him both taking his statement and as a liaison officer with the family.

Jamie Donaldson: The victim was deputy chairman of Food Brokers Ltd, based in Portsmouth. At about 1 am on Monday 14 August Mr Cracknell was at home asleep with his wife when he was awoken by a masked man brandishing a shot gun. Also asleep were four young children in another part of the house.

The victim and his wife were made to get up and whilst the offender retained hold of the shotgun Mrs Cracknell was forced to tie her husband by the hands and feet with tie up handcuffs. Mrs Cracknell was then forced to tie herself using similar handcuffs. Before leaving the premises the offender left a typed note which demanded the victim's father the Chairman of the family business to pay a £1,000,000 ransom for the safe return of his son. The note demanded that the sum be raised within three days and failure to do so could result in his son being injured or murdered.

The victim was taken away in his own BMW which was then driven to East Horsley railway station close by. Before the offender left the house he took the door house keys belonging to the victim and also the victim's wallet with various cheque cards. At the station the victim, tied up and blindfolded was transferred into a red Audi and put into the rear seat well of the car and taken to Dartmoor. There he was led into a ravine out on the moors and tied bound and gagged to a tree.

Cracknell was left in this isolated location from about lunch time of the day he was taken until he freed himself and made to an isolated farmhouse on Friday 18 August at approximately 11 am. During Cracknell's captivity he usually received visits from the offender about ten hours apart when he was fed with sandwiches and pasties and given fizzy drinks and water.

The kidnapper telephoned Cracknell senior, Desmond, and negotiations started. It was agreed that £140,000 would be deposited at a specific location in Seale Lane, Puttenham during the afternoon of the 17 August. Desmond left the money and it was picked up by the offender who was under surveillance until it was clear Victor was alive and well, when he was detained.

Scenes of Crime Officers Detective Sergeant Donaldson and PC Dance travelled to Exeter on the 18th and went to Cowley Farm, Ashton near Exeter. After a trek across fields were shown a deep ravine with a stream running through it. After examining the scene where Victor had been captive, it was apparent he had been restrained with wire around his neck which had been connected to batteries and had he moved he would have received an electric shock. It was also apparent that had there been a flash flood Cracknell would have been in a perilous position.

The two Scenes of Crime Officers were deployed on the 20 August to the home of the accused Kenneth Rose from where numerous exhibits were seized.

Special Crime Patrol Unit about 1989

Special Crime Patrol Unit about 1989

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