Who is kidnapper and murderer Michael Sams and what were his crimes?

PA File picture of killer Michael Sams, serving life for the murder of teenager Julie Dart and kidnap of estate agent Stephanie Slater.
Sams, pictured in 1993, is serving life for the murder of Julie Dart and kidnap of Stephanie Slater. Credit: PA

Notorious killer and kidnapper Michael Sams is due to appear before a parole board this month after spending three decades in prison.

Sams, who kept his victims in coffin-like boxes, was given four life sentences in 1993.

He was convicted for the murder of Julie Dart from Yorkshire and kidnapping estate agent Stephanie Slater, who he held hostage in his Newark workshop. Here's all you need to know about Michael Sams and his crimes.

Who is Michael Sams?

Sams was born in Keighley, West Yorkshire, on 11 August, 1941.

He joined the Merchant Navy at the age of 20. After serving for three years, he returned to Keighley, where he worked as a lift engineer and later a central heating engineer. He went on to establish his own company.

Sams was first sent to prison in 1976 for stealing a car and making a false insurance claim. During his time inside he was diagnosed with cancer and had to have one of his legs being amputated.

After his release, Sams was forced to sell his business and later started a new business in the 1980s, selling power tools.

He was married three times and had two sons by his first wife. By the time he was arrested for his crimes he was living in Sutton on Trent, Nottinghamshire, with his third wife.

Sams went on to commit crimes that shook the country. In 1991 he picked up his first victim, 18-year-old sex worker Julie Dart.

What happened to Julie Dart?

Julie Dart was murdered by Sams Credit: PA

On 9 July 1991, Sams kidnapped 18-year-old Julie Dart, a sex worker, from the red light district in Chapeltown, Leeds.

He blindfolded the teenager and took her to his workshop in Newark, Nottinghamshire, where she was forced inside a coffin-like box that was nailed to the floor.

Sams then demanded £140,000 from her family but hung up the phone before revealing where the money should be dropped off.

In reality, he had already murdered Miss Dart with a hammer. Her remains were later found on a farm near Grantham, Lincolnshire.

It was during a later taped confession at Full Sutton Prison in East Yorkshire that Sams revealed it was always his intention to kill her.

In a television documentary, recordings taken by the lead detective in the case revealed Sams saying: "When I went out to kidnap Julie Dart, there was only one intention and that was to kill her. There was no intention whatsoever to keep her alive."

The kidnap of Stephanie Slater

Kidnap victim Stephanie Slater arriving at Nottingham Crown Court to give evidence in the trial of Michael Sams, 1993. Credit: PA

Months after the murder of Julie Dart, Sams struck again when he kidnapped 25-year-old estate agent Stephanie Slater.

On 22 January 1992, Sams used a false name to view a house in the Great Barr district of Birmingham.

Sams held Miss Slater at knifepoint as he forced her into his car and took her to the same hide-out where he kept Julie Dart.

For eight days she was kept handcuffed, gagged and blindfolded inside a similar coffin-like box, which was inside a locked wheelie bin laid on its side.

Sams' workshop in Newark

Sams attempted another ransom, this time asking for £175,000 from her employers for her release.

On 28 January, Sams rang Miss Slater's office and demanded to speak to her boss, Kevin Watts, asking him if the money was ready.

Sams told Mr Watts to act as a courier to deliver the money to a location. He instructed Mr Watt to follow a series of messages and clues. Some were by phone while others were written and taped to shelves in telephone kiosks.

Eventually Mr Watts was led to a bridge over a disused railway in Barnsley, where he placed the money in a tin tray.

Some of the ransom money recovered by police investigating the kidnap of Stephanie Slater Credit: PA

Despite police hoping to catch Sams during the pick-up he managed to evade officers.

After Sams received the ransom he let Miss Slater go, dropping her off near her home in Birmingham.

Sams' arrest and conviction

The calls made to Miss Slater's workplace were aired on Crimewatch and heard by Sams' ex-wife, who recognised her former husband's voice and alerted police.

Along with the evidence provided by Miss Slater, this information helped lead police to Sams.

He stood trial at Nottingham Crown Court after admitting the kidnap and false imprisonment of Miss Slater and demanding a £175,000 ransom but denying Miss Dart's murder. He was found guilty of that charge by a jury.

Stephanie Slater died in 2017 from cancer after she dedicated her life to helping kidnap victims by working with police forces across the country.

How long has Michael Sams been in prison and could he be released?

Michael Sams was jailed for life in 1993 Credit: PA

Michael Sams has been in prison since he was jailed for life In 1993. No minimum term was set by the court after his conviction.

Now in his 80s, Sams he has had two previous bids for freedom rejected, but is due to have his latest parole hearing this month.

The panel will examine evidence from the original crime, victim personal statements and any evidence from witnesses including probation officers, psychiatrists and psychologists.

A Parole Board spokesperson said: "An oral hearing has been listed for the parole review of Michael Sams and is scheduled to take place in March 2023.

"Parole Board decisions are solely focused on what risk a prisoner could represent to the public if released and whether that risk is manageable in the community."

They added: "Members read and digest hundreds of pages of evidence and reports in the lead up to an oral hearing.

"The prisoner and witnesses are then questioned at length during the hearing which often lasts a full day or more."

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