Kidnapping in the United Kingdom


Statistics for Kidnapping in the United Kingdom are often hard to discover, due to the country's policies around the crime.[1]


Notably, U.K. has special categorization for the crime of child abduction, it is categorized under the violence against the person, in place of kidnapping. According to the Offender Management Caseload Statistics, UK had recorded about 57 convicted kidnappings cases between 2007-2008. On 2008-2009, it was 21. The Caseload Statistics further notes that out of 98,820 prisoners in England and Wales, 217 were convicted of kidnapping. Of these 217 kidnappers, 208 were men, and 9 were women. Other analysis speaks about the criminal histories, using the official records as the source. About 7042 males and 545 females who had been jailed for their convicted kidnapping between 1979 and 2001. Only 10 men and 14 women had been sentenced for more than 1 convicted kidnapping. The average age of kidnappers is around mid 20s, and more than 1/2 of the men, and 1/3 of the women kidnappers had been convicted of other offenses, usually thieving and violence.[2]


A 2004 Home Office research study presented 798 police reports regarding child abduction in England and Wales. Of those reports, that 56% (447) involved a stranger, about 375 were attempted abductions while 72 were successful.[3]

The kidnapping figures published by the Office for National Statistics recorded about 532 cases of child abductions that were reported to police in 2011/12. Figures do not include Scotland.[4]

An estimated of 500 cases of parental kidnapping are reported in the country, every year.[5]

Notable incidents

Date Victim(s) Abductor(s) Location Age of victim(s) Outcome Notes
January 14, 1975 Lesley Whittle Donald Neilson Highley, England 17 Murdered Whittle was an heiress kidnapped from her home by Neilson, also known as the "Black Panther". Whittle's body was later found on 7 March 1975 hanging from a wire in a drain shaft in Bathpool Park, Staffordshire. Nielson was captured and convicted, and died in December 2011 while serving life in prison.[6]
February 12, 1993 James Bulger Robert Thompson and Jon Venables Merseyside, England 2 Murdered Bulger was abducted from a Merseyside shopping centre by a pair of ten-year-old boys. Later on in the day the two boys tortured Bulger to death and left his body on a train line.[7]
July 1, 2000 Sarah Payne Roy Whiting West Sussex, England 8 Murdered Sarah was kidnapped and murdered soon afterwards by Whiting. The subsequent investigation became a high profile murder case in the United Kingdom. Following his conviction, Whiting was imprisoned for life and is currently being held in the maximum security Wakefield prison, West Yorkshire.[citation needed] The case inspired Sarah's Law, allowing controlled access to the sex offender registry
February 19, 2008 Shannon Matthews Michael Donovan and Karen Matthews Dewsbury, England 9 Rescued Shannon was abducted and held captive for 24 days by Donovan, the uncle of her mother, Karen Matthews', boyfriend. After her rescue by police it was found that Karen had helped plot the kidnapping in an attempt to gain reward money, of about £50,000.[8]

There have been incidents in which kidnapping was faked. In 1992, Joanna Grenside, an aerobics teacher from Harpenden, England, had staged her disappearance to avoid Christmas.[9]


  1. ^ "Missing Children Statistics At A Glance: Listed By Country". 2013-05-14. Archived from the original on 2013-07-08. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
  2. ^ Hollin, Clive R. (2013). Psychology and Crime: An Introduction to Criminological Psychology. Routledge. p. 146.
  3. ^ Hill, Amelia (2 October 2012). "More than half of all reported child abduction cases involve a stranger". Guardian.
  4. ^ Rogers, Simon (2012-10-04). "Child abduction in England & Wales: the key numbers | UK news". Retrieved 2014-04-12.
  5. ^ Geoffrey L. Greif; Rebecca L. Hegar (2010). When Parents Kidnap. Simon and Schuster. p. 4.
  6. ^ "BBC ON THIS DAY | 14 | 1975: Heiress Lesley Whittle kidnapped". BBC News. Retrieved 2014-04-12.
  7. ^ Taylor, Alex (2013-02-12). "James Bulger murder 20 years on - Mirror Online". Retrieved 2014-04-28.
  8. ^ "Shannon Matthews kidnap | UK news". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-04-28.
  9. ^ Ian Mackinnon (1993-04-08). "Woman faked abduction: Court leniency for bulimia sufferer who cost police 20,000 pounds - UK - News". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-04-12.