Stephanie Slater – the estate agent from Birmingham who was kidnapped by the murderer Michael Sams – has died after being taken ill near her home on the Isle of Wight.
At the age of 25, Stephanie made headlines across the world after her abduction in January 1992. Sams held her at knifepoint when he posed as a prospective buyer at an empty house in Great Barr, Birmingham.
Bound and gagged, she was driven more than 100 miles to Sams’ workshop at Newark in Nottinghamshire where she was kept prisoner for eight days whilst her employers were forced into handing over a ransom of £175,000.
Michael Sams, originally from Yorkshire, set Stephanie free after collecting the money but was later caught by police. He was jailed for the kidnapping and was also found guilty of the murder of 18-year-old Julie Dart from Leeds who was abducted by him the previous year.
After the trial at Nottingham Crown Court, Stephanie said Sams had raped her during her captivity – an allegation he denied.
Stephanie Slater reflecting on her experiences in 2012
ITV News Central correspondent Keith Wilkinson made a TV documentary with Stephanie about her ordeal and knew her well in the 1990’s.
He said: “Stephanie never got over what she went through. She suffered with terrible nightmares, great trauma. She lived in fear that one day Sams would be released on parole. She had a lot of back ache and blamed this on the awful pains she felt during her abduction. In very cold and dark conditions, she was locked up in a wooden box, which was inside a wheelie bin. She was ordered to keep still or face electrocution."
Stephanie was recently taken to hospital after suddenly feeling very unwell and was diagnosed with cancer.
“I was very upset when I heard Stephanie was seriously ill,” said Keith. “The last time I saw her on the Isle of Wight to do some filming a few years ago, she was quite upbeat and positive. She could sometimes be hysterically funny and had many passions. She loved her dogs, her cats; she enjoyed walking on the beach.
"She was mad about space and astronomy and once we took her to do some filming at Jodrell Bank radio telescope, which she absolutely loved. She was a fan of the cult TV comedy series Red Dwarf and knew many of the scripts off by heart."
"One day we took her up in a light aircraft around the Isle of Wight to look at her new home when she moved away from the West Midlands to start a fresh life. She was full of laughter that day. Stephanie’s life wasn’t all doom and gloom but the terrors of what happened to her never left her. They had an awful impact on her and her parents.
"Stephanie wrote a book called Beyond Fear: My Will To Survive. She wrote this partly as an inspiration to other women. She told how she’d used her wits to get through the period of captivity and to win her freedom by working on the psychology of Sams to view her as a human being. She gave many talks to police forces to help them understand things from the point of view of women victims of violence and sexual abuse."
"There’s no doubt her efforts helped pave the way for better support for victims. She also helped raise awareness of the possible dangers faced by estate agents meeting clients alone. For her bravery and campaigning work many people owe Stephanie a great debt of gratitude.”