A former British soldier has been sentenced to 14 years in jail for his part in the kidnapping of a French Riviera hotel heiress.
Philip Dutton was one of 13 men involved in the plot in which Jacqueline Veyrac was snatched off the street outside her home and held in a van for 48 hours.
Giuseppe Serena, 67, an Italian restaurant manager who masterminded the abduction, was sentenced to 18 years.
Veyrac, 80, the owner of the five-star Grand Hotel at Cannes, had been shopping and was returning home when masked kidnappers pounced on her and dragged her into a van in October 2016. She was found two days later, having been gagged, bound by her hands and feet, and held in the back of the Renault Kangoo where she was slept on a filthy mattress.
Having refused to swallow a sedative the kidnappers gave her, and after trying to escape several times, she was rescued after kicking the inside of the vehicle and alerting a passerby.
The court in Nice heard that Serena, a former manager at the Michelin-starred La Reserve restaurant in Nice that is also owned by Veyrac, held a bitter grudge against her for terminating his contract in 2009. He was also behind a failed attempt to kidnap her in 2013.
Dutton, 52, from Liverpool, who had been living rough on the Côte d’Azur, was also accused of involvement in the 2013 plot. He was the only one of those charged to admit his involvement in the kidnapping. He had written a €5m ransom demand, intending to keep 10% of it, but the demand never reached the Veyrac family.
The former soldier told investigators he had served in the British army’s special forces and had been injured by a mine in Afghanistan in 2011. After treatment for serious burns he returned to the UK but was denied a military pension, he claimed.
Serena had denied the charges, but Dutton told the court the Italian had “manipulated us all”. “He had charisma, he seemed well organised … he was obsessed” Dutton told the court.
Giving evidence in court, Veyrac said the kidnap had made her afraid to go out. “I rarely go out in the evenings any longer and I avoid places that are too isolated. My life has changed. I’m still afraid,” she said.