Woman duped out of £113k after man she met online says he was ‘kidnapped abroad’

A woman duped in a dating scam lost almost £113,000 after the man she was talking to claimed he was kidnapped.

The man told Rachel Elwell, from the West Midlands, that he lived nearby and had been called abroad for an engineering contract in Ukraine.

He convinced her with documents and pictures he needed cash for issues that crept up on him.

He claimed he had been taken captive by loan sharks in a wild scheme and needed the funds for his safe return.

Rachel, 50, said there is no guarantee she'll see her money again after being duped by the man who "seemed quite an open and genuine guy".

She told the BBC she felt responsible whether he lived or died and his clever plot of going silent made her think he had been murdered.

The pair met on January 1 online and claimed to live close by in Cannock, and his "picture looked nice".

He said they wouldn't be able to meet for weeks as he needed to stay in Ukraine.

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But he later phoned and claimed laws in the country had changed due to the coronavirus pandemic and he had to pay tax before completing the work.

Rachel sent him the money reluctantly and he showed her a copy of a supposed tax office letter.

She said: "They said… 'you need to pay 160 thousand'. So he cashed his pension in, sold his car, borrowed money and I helped him.

"I mean at this point I think it was about £45k I'd sent him to help him with the tax bill."

The scammer then told Rachel he had been held captive by two "heavies" who turned up and locked him in a cellar.

He sent photos appearing to show he was being held there and said he'd be released after the money was sent.

When Rachel went to meet her online suitor on March 16, the day he was due to fly back, she travelled to Heathrow Airport to see him for the first time.

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However, she received an email supposedly from airport officials claiming he had been arrested.

But she approached Border Force officials who told her it "look, it's a scam".

Rachel then went to the house where he claimed to live in Coventry to meet his daughter and housekeeper/nanny but was met with news they didn't live there.

She said: "It was in that moment that I knew it was all a lie."

A spokesperson for West Midlands Police said: "Rachel's case is a prime example of romance fraud, her case highlights how much these scammers affect people's lives."

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