A gang who plotted the ‘chilling’ abduction of a child who they claimed was at risk of Satanic abuse have been jailed for a combined total of 63 years.
Gang leaders Anke Hill, 51, and Wilfred Wong, 56, snatched the child from their foster carer as they arrived home from school on November 4 last year, Caernarfon Crown Court heard.
Hill wrestled the child from their car seat and put them in a waiting vehicle, while Wong held a knife to the foster carer’s throat before slashing one of the carer’s car tyres to prevent them from following.
Wilfred Wong, pictured being taken from Caernarfon Crown Court, was a leading member of a gang involved in the abduction of a child in north Wales
Members of the gang, including Edward and Janet Stevenson wrongly claimed the child was at risk
They then met Janet Stevenson and Edward Stevenson, a married couple who had hired a car to take the child away from Anglesey, north Wales.
Two others, Jane Going-Hill and Kristine Petley, acted as lookouts on bridges to mainland Wales to spot any police activity, facilitating the car’s escape route.
The youngster had to travel for ‘hundreds of miles in the footwell’ of a Ford Galaxy as their captors sought to evade detection.
The child was safely recovered when the hire car was stopped on the M1 between Milton Keynes and Northampton.
Wong, 51, of in Bloomsbury, central London, denied conspiracy to kidnap and possession of a bladed article but was convicted after a trial in August.
He was jailed for 17 years for conspiracy to kidnap between July and November 2020. He received two years and six months for possessing a bladed article in a public place, to run concurrently.
Janet Stevenson, 57, and husband Edward Stevenson, 69, both of Crawley, West Sussex, also denied conspiracy to kidnap but were convicted after a trial.
They were jailed for 15 years and eight years respectively.
They kissed and hugged in the glass-fronted dock before being led away by dock officers.
Three women pleaded guilty to conspiracy to kidnap.
Anke Hill, 53, from Holyhead, was jailed for 14 years and five months.
Jane Going-Hill, 60,of Holyhead, was jailed for four years and eight months.
Kristine Ellis-Petley, 58, of Holyhead, was jailed for four years.
Karren Natasha Sawford, 48, was cleared of conspiracy to kidnap.
Robert Frith, 65, of Holyhead, was found dead in his cell at HMP Berwyn in Wrexham on November 14 last year while on remand for conspiracy to kidnap. An inquest opening heard the medical cause of death was suffocation.
Nicholas Williams, mitigating for Wong, said his client had been on a ‘rescue mission’.
The gang plotted to abduct the child after school, threatening the foster carer with a knife
Members of the gang were jailed for a total of 63 years following the kidnapping
Wong had worked in human rights for 30 years and received a reference from Sir Edward Leigh, Conservative MP for Gainsborough, which stated he had done ‘good work’ writing letters from victims to be sent to ambassadors.
Mr Williams said: ‘Mr Wong’s motivation was not to cause harm to this child but to prevent harm.
‘Mr Wong’s motives were good albeit misguided and misplaced. But his actions were not good because they crossed that line into criminality.’
The defence barrister said Wong had been fed ‘misinformation’ by Hill about alleged abuse
Mr Williams said: ‘This fed into Mr Wong’s already established beliefs of the prolific nature of SRA (Satanic Ritual Abuse).’
The court heard Wong thought a kidnap plot using a knife ‘was the lesser of two evils’.
Mr Williams said: ‘But he realises he should never have accepted everything she (Anke Hill) was telling him.’
Justin Hugheston-Roberts, mitigating for Janet Stevenson, said his client was also convinced she was doing the right thing.
Married for 48 years, she has five grandchildren and has never even had a parking ticket, the court heard.
Duncan Bould, mitigating for Edward Stevenson, said his client wrongly believed he was rescuing a child from an abusive parent.
He is ‘not a director but a follower’, the court heard.
Richard Edwards, mitigating for Going-Hill, said his client similarly had an ‘unfounded concern’ for the child’s welfare.
She was ‘truly remorseful’, Mr Edwards said.
Elen Owen, mitigating for Ellis-Petley, said her client thought she was doing the right thing too.
Ellis-Petley, a grandmother who worked in charity shop, was ‘groomed’ by being shown ‘harrowing’ pictures of sexual abuse, purportedly drawn by Child A, and still has nightmares about them, the court heard.
Her Honour Judge Nicola Jones said: ‘I am satisfied Anke Hill and Wilfred Wong were the leaders of the conspiracy and recruited others.
‘But all six of you were acting as vigilantes, taking the law into your own hands.
‘Your motivation was to rescue Child A to prevent harm. But you all had sufficient intellects to realise that kidnap might cause harm to a child.
‘You knew the family courts were involved but you thought you knew better.’
In a victim impact statement, the child’s father, who was not charged with any crime, said: ‘I have been portrayed as a Satanist and a paedophile – all of which is untrue.’
The father said had a ‘terrible realisation’ that he may never see his child again when he received a phone call from a social worker to say his child had been kidnapped.
He has since suffered ‘malicious online trolling by friends of Wilfred Wong and his Satanic ritual abuse agenda’.
The kidnap itself had a ‘catastrophic impact’ on him and his child, he told the court.
He said the episode had derailed his relationship with his child and the kidnappers had shown a ‘complete lack of empathy for their horrific crime’.
He added: ‘Where it not for my faith in God I do not believe I would be here today.’
The father also read a separate victim statement for his child in which he said the youngster had been left terrified during the abduction.
A Crown Prosecution Service spokesperson said: ‘The group had made a remarkable amount of planning to carry out this crime, including sourcing a passport with a view to take the child abroad.
‘The facts of the case are chilling, and it must have been a terrifying experience for the child and carer.
‘Through detailed analysis of the material provided by the police, the CPS built a strong case which resulted in these convictions.’
Speaking after sentencing, a North Wales Police spokesperson said: ‘This was a complex and carefully orchestrated conspiracy, perpetrated with chilling ruthlessness.
‘This was a harrowing ordeal for both the child and foster carer. The impact of this incident cannot be understated, and we would like to acknowledge their strength and courage throughout this investigation.
‘Through the dedication of detectives, and meticulous investigation, we presented a strong case which resulted in these convictions.
‘This would not have been possible without the close partnership work between ourselves, the Crown Prosecution Service and the local authority, to whom we are very grateful.’