The Selfie Snatcher
It was a complete and total shock to me, coming down the stairs to find this man standing there, a complete stranger, holding a gun in his hand as he looked at me. My husband had already left for work, and my plan had been to go and have coffee with the girls – but that wasn’t going to happen.
I wasn’t even smartly dressed – like I said, I was going out for a coffee, and when you read about this sort of thing in the papers they always seem to be glamorous people, dressed up to the nines or snatched from their beds. Not in my case – I was wearing an old grey sweater and cardie, faded jeans, an old pair of over the knee brown suede boots and a large tartan scarf wrapped round my neck to keep my throat safe.
So I came down, and there he was – black jacket and pants, dark glasses, gloves, and as I said a gun. He looked at me, smiled, and told me not to scream, or I would regret it. He then asked me to take my mobile phone out of my bag.
Well, he had the gun, what was I supposed to do? I took it out of my purse, and then handed that over, thinking that was all he was going to do – take my purse. So when he said he wanted me to take a selfie of myself on my phone, I did it – no questions, no argument. He even told me to smile – and when I look at it now, I can see how fixed that grin is.
He then took my phone from me, turned me round, and pulled my wrists behind my back, tying them together with rope, before he turned me round again and pressed a strip of some sort of plaster over my mouth. Leaving a letter with my phone, he frogmarched me out of the house and into a van, making me lie in the back as he secured my ankles with more rope, and then got in the front, driving off with me in the back!
I had no idea how long he drove for, but when he carried me out over his shoulder I saw I was in some sort of garage or warehouse. He took me to a mattress, laid me down on it, and then tied my legs together below my knees, as well as securing my arms to my sides. He then left me there, shivering with cold and fear, while he kept looking at his own phone.
Eventually, he lifted me up and carried me back into the van, and we drove off again. He said nothing, did nothing to me, until he opened the side of the van and I saw it was pitch black outside. Untying my legs, he made me walk out – and up my own front path, as he drove off again.
My husband opened the door and gathered me in, kissing me as he untied the ropes and peeled what turned out to be white tape from my mouth. The kids were asleep in bed, and he told me he had paid a small ransom – just to make sure I was safe again...
The phenomenon of people wanting to take pictures of their clothes, and post them on line, has grown over the last few years, but quietly evidence has emerged of a more sinister aspect of this form of entertainment. At first, it appeared to be a harmless eccentric, as one student in London recalled.
Yeah, I remember when one of my friends introduced me to this guy. He was a typical student – not ugly, not strikingly handsome. At any rate, he offered to help me with an assignment, and so he came round one afternoon.
I was casually dressed – white short sleeved top, dark blue leggings, white wool socks and burgundy leather boots. I also had a brown shawl hanging loosely round my neck. We worked for a while, and then I asked if he would mind if I took a selfie of myself for my own amusement.
Well, he didn’t object, so I got my phone out, posed in front of a mirror, and took a couple of shots. That was when he said he wondered what would happen if someone used that as a ransom photo.
Well, I had drama as a minor, and it gave me an idea for a role play exercise. I asked him to pretend he had forced me to take the photo, and then tried to hold me hostage. What would he do?
He smiled, and asked if I had any tape. I had a roll of packing tape, so he took that and asked me to sit in an old armchair. He then taped my wrists to the armrests, and my ankles to the front legs, before pressing a strip over my mouth and using my phone to take a photo of me.
That was it – innocent enough, I’m sure you’ll agree. He gave me the phone back, cut me free, and we got back to work. Surely that didn’t start this off.
As she said, it seemed an innocent enough game – but a few weeks later, another young woman had a slightly more unusual experience with what may have been the same young man...
We’d gone clothes shopping this particular Saturday morning, and I had gone into a booth with a couple of jackets to try on, with my boyfriend coming in with me. It was a cold day, so I had a grey woollen snood around my neck, covering the top of my linen jacket and pale blue top. The legs of my jeans were tucked into dusky brown leather boots, with false buckles on the outside. I had my blonde hair up in a bun, and sunglasses on just because I thought they looked cool.
Anyway, he watched me as I tried on the new jackets, but I could see he was – well bored. What do you expect of men at times? I asked him what he wanted to do, and he asked me if I was up for a little wager.
Well, I asked him what he had in mind, and he laughed, said I’d never agree to it. I looked at him, and said I would, and that’s when he said it.
He bet me he could put something on my mouth, stop me talking, and walk me out of the store with nobody noticing. I said if he did that, then he could do whatever he wanted with me when we got home.
Well, that was when he took out of his pocket a roll of flesh coloured sticking plaster. It was a little wider than my mouth, and as I watched him tear a strip free, I realised he was going to use it to gag me!
Before he put it on, however, he said I should take a selfie of myself, so I got out my phone and did so, with a bit of a scowl. I then put my lips together and waited as he smoothed the plaster over my lips, then retrieved my lipstick and drew over the shape of my lips.
When I looked again in the mirror, I actually could not see the plaster, as he took the jacket I’d selected, and we went to buy it. He paid, we walked out, along the mall and to the car park – and nobody said anything.
Well, when we got home, and I took that off, I kept my promise – but we broke up soon after that. Wonder if he pulled that trick on anyone else...
It was soon after that the reports of the so-called Selfie Snatcher started to come in. An early example was in the Suffolk hills, as this lady recalls...
I had just come back from taking my dog to the vets, and walked straight up to my bedroom, letting her run round in the back garden as she usually does. It was an autumn day, so I had pulled on a pair of black Hunter wellingtons over my black leggings, the red wool infinity scarf still round my neck and hanging over the top of my light pink jumper. The hem of my black top with thin white stripes could be seen under that as well.
Anyway – I had gone into my bedroom when my mobile went off, and I started talking to my husband without paying much attention round me. If I had, I might have seen the young man hiding in the corner of the room, but as I said, my attention was elsewhere.
So when I finished the call, and looked up, there he was, smiling at me as he held a pistol in his hand and pointed it at me. The balaclava covered his head, and he wore gloves, while I could see my jewels in a bag on the table. I stared at him for a moment, before he looked at the mirror and said “use your phone, and take a picture of yourself.”
Well, I did it, not quite believing myself as I used my iPhone, and then he took it off me, smiling as he picked up a ball of string which I had been using to wrap some parcels.
He told me to turn round, and put my hands behind my back, and to my great surprise he used the string to tie my wrists together, my palms pressing against each other. It was like a surreal dream as I felt them being held together, and then he lifted my scarf, and pulled it between my lips, using the string to tighten it at the back of my neck so that it was held firmly in place.
Picking up the bag, he walked me down the stairs, and left my phone on a table in the hallway, taking a moment to scribble a note. To my great surprise, he then walked me out of the house and opened the boot of a car. I looked at him, and then he made me sit on the edge, and then lifted my legs and manoeuvred me so that I was lying on my side.
He used the string to secure my ankles together, and then closed the boot lid, leaving me in darkness with the taste of wool no my tongue as we drove off. We eventually stopped, and I could hear him walking away, but I was left in darkness.
It was a while before the boot opened, and I looked up at my husband. He untied me, helped me out, and told me he had found my phone, and a note saying I had been taken hostage and left where we were – a country park some miles from our house.
I guess I wasn’t hurt, but it was a scary situation – it was actually a kidnapping, when you look at it in that way, wasn’t it...
Over the following months, more and more people reported this strange occurrence – a masked and armed person making them take a photo on their phones, and then removing them somewhere else. At first, it was associated with home robberies, but then a report came in which went a little further...
I was attending this high level sales conference, as my company’s lead negotiator, and if I say so myself doing very well indeed. The day was nearly over, so I went back to my hotel room to relax for a few minutes, and change into something over than a work outfit.
I remember I was wearing a grey cowl necked dress made of wool, with a wide black leather belt, dark hose and knee length black boots. It was appropriately sober, business like – but my feet ached, and as I went into the bathroom, I looked at myself in the mirror.
There was a knock on the door, and I went to see who it was – like an idiot, opening the door without thinking. So when he forced his way in, his eyes looking at me through the holes in the balaclava, I was too terrified to do much.
“I want you,” he said quietly, “to do whatever I say, understand?”
I nodded, and even whimpered, as he said “I want you – to take a selfie.”
“Go into the bathroom,” he said quietly, “and take a selfie of yourself. Make sure you smile.”
Well, I just did what he said – went in, stood slightly to the side, smiled and took the selfie, before he took the phone off me, and laid it on the table the television was sitting on with a sealed envelope. He then made me lie face down on the bed, crossed my wrists behind my back, and used some cord he took from a pocket to tie my wrists together.
He did it tightly as well, so that I could not reach the knots, before he crossed and tied my ankles tightly together. He then used more rope to secure my legs below my knees, before he rolled me over and took a strip of duct tape from his black jacket, pressing it firmly over my lips.
“Wthsstthmmnfths,” I said as he went and opened the room door, then came back – and lifted me over his shoulder, his arm round my legs as I was carried out of the room and down the service stairs. I found myself in the basement, and then in the back of a transit van as he covered me with a blanket, and I felt the van move off.
I later found out the note was to ask for a ransom – five hundred pounds, to be delivered to a certain place. I knew nothing of this – the first I knew was when the police found me in a car park ten miles away, abandoned and left to be found.
As to the motive – money, I imagine, but it was the strange way it happened. Making me take what is in essence my ransom photo? Weird...
Whoever was doing this soon progressed to more major kidnappings...
My dad is a managing director of an estate agent, so we’re well of, and I like to spend money and look good. This particular day, I had just bought a new white jersey mini dress, with elbow length sleeves, and was anxious to try it on when I got home.
I guess that’s how he got in – I didn’t make sure the door was closed, but at the time it didn’t matter. I was that eager – running up to my room, and stripping off. My mum’s Japanese, so I have those facial features with long black hair – and as I put on the dress, I thought it looked wonderful.
I went to my wardrobe, and took out a pair of over the knee black suede boots, putting them on and looking at myself in the mirror. I was so pleased by the way it looked that I grabbed my mobile phone, looked at it as I pointed it at a mirror, and took a picture.
At which point, I heard footsteps, and then felt a leather gloved hand as it was clamped over my mouth, and an arm went round my waist. I had no time to react as I was forced face down onto my bed, and I felt my arms pulled behind my back, the rope biting into my bare wrists as it was used to force them together.
“Do what I tell you to do,” the male voice said as I was made to sit up, and I felt rope being tied round my upper body, forcing my arms into my sides as it went round my stomach.
I then looked over my shoulder as he crossed and bound my ankles together. He was tall, a bit fat, wearing a black leather jacket and dark jeans, trainers, and black gloves as well as a balaclava mask.
He soon had my ankles bound securely together, and then I watched as he tied my legs together below my knees. Making me sit up, he took my mobile phone and took another picture of me wriggling about, before he took an envelope out from the inside of his jacket and left it with my phone.
He then produced a roll of white tape from his jacket pocket, and took a pair of panties from my drawer, before putting the latter in my mouth and wrapping the former round my head to keep them in place. He hadn’t said anything since the original admonition to be quiet, and yet he was in total control – as he threw me over his shoulder, and carried me out to a van, dropping me on a pile of blankets inside and driving me away.
He held me in a garage or something like that, feeding me and allowing me to go to the toilet, but most of the time I was trussed and gagged. The envelope he left was a ransom demand, and it took Daddy that long to raise the money.
The worst thing was, when I finally was released, the photos had somehow been forwarded to all my contacts. I still get reminded of it from time to time...
The police are looking for this man or men – it may be a group, it may be one person, no one is quite sure...
“I think it shows you to a great advantage, don’t you?”
Grace looked at the picture and slowly nodded. It showed her in front of a mirror, smiling as she stood in her green cowl necked jersey dress, dark tights and knee length tan leather boots. Her long brown hair fell over the shoulders, a necklace round her neck.
That necklace now sat in a velvet bag, with the rest of her jewellery, as she lay on the bed. Her arms were pulled behind her bag and her wrists secured tightly together, with rope around her arms and upper body, the bands above and below her chest.
She tried to move her legs, but the ropes holding her ankles tightly together creaked on the leather, and then the ropes around her legs below her knees meant she could barely move them anyway. A large strip of white tape covered her mouth, and under that a pair of her panties filled her mouth.
“Now then,” the masked man said as he turned and looked at her mother, “your turn. Take the selfie, dear lady.”
While Grace was in her mid twenties, her mother was in her early fifties, and had the same long brown hair, the gray showing at the roots. She was wearing a cowl necked jersey dress as well, hers with black and white horizontal strips and a thin brown belt round her waist, purple leggings and straight light tan boots.
But right now all she could do was look at her daughter, then nod as she tried to smile and held her mobile phone up, taking a selfie of herself.
“Nice,” the masked man said as he took her phone, and then wrapped a length of rope round her arms and chest, pulling them into her sides, “now we get you wrapped up, and the two of you get to take a nice little trip until Pater decides to pay me...”