Johnny Nelson, Kidnap Plot – 15+ years later


When the 5 O’Clock news is abundantly digested, how much crimes are avoided is lost on us all.

Here is a heartwarming story about concerned citizenship and vigilant and active Law Enforcement.

Kidnap Plot // 15 Years Later

Police guard boxing champion as kidnap plot revealed

Helen Carter
August 29, 2003

The boxing champion Johnny Nelson has been under police guard for four months after a plot to kidnap him was uncovered.

The plot against the World Boxing Organisation’s cruiserweight champion, who is married with two children, has been linked to a drugs gang in the north-west, but South Yorkshire police refused to confirm this.

A group from Sheffield apparently contacted a criminal gang involved in drug smuggling in Manchester and the north-west. They are believed to have said that they wanted Nelson, 36, kidnapped or harmed.

Nelson said that when the police first told him of the threat he laughed. “I thought, this is ridiculous, it can’t be true. It’s like something you read in the papers about someone else,” he told BBC’s Look North programme yesterday.

“When they [police] started to go into more detail, I still thought there might have been a mistake. But when I saw the helicopter hovering above the house taking photos and the armoured police around the back, I realised it was serious.”

He said the security measures put in place at his home included £10,000 worth of cameras and panic buttons, as well as having police officers assigned to him. A rapid response team of eight armed officers was on standby.

“At first it was a big, big shock and then I just got used to them being around,” he said. “As a fighter, once I feel fear it produces anger, so I was more angry than anything else that anyone would even consider doing this to me.”

He said the family had to call off visits and cancel arrangements with friends and relatives without being able to explain what was happening. The 6ft 3in boxer was only able to tell the headteacher at his children’s school.

Police believe the chance of any kidnap has lessened, but their operations are continuing.

Nelson told the Sheffield Star: “The police said that someone was trying to line people up to get me. They said: ‘it’s personal’ and they were taking it very seriously.

“One night we got back from holiday at 1.30am and the phone went. It was the police. They knew we had just got back and were checking we were all right.”

Equipment was installed allowing them to record telephone calls and the police gave them a guaranteed response time of two minutes in the event of an emergency call. They were advised to take their mobile phones to bed with them in case intruders cut landlines to the house.

Nelson’s wife Deborah said: “They told us what we should do in any situation that might arise – they were really thorough. I cannot speak highly enough of the way they treated us. Police were here all the time, so it was not particularly scary.

“But I wouldn’t go out anywhere, I didn’t dare leave the kids with a babysitter.”

Det Supt Kevin Hardy said: “I can confirm that information has been received about a possible kidnap plan on Mr Nelson and that over a period of several months we have taken steps to ensure Mr Nelson’s safety and [that] of his family. A police investigation into this information is on-going.”

Frank Warren, Nelson’s promoter, said: “I heard about it a couple of weeks ago and was shocked. It is a worrying time for him and his family.”

Mr Warren said the boxer was well-liked within boxing circles and was known to be one of the sport’s “nice guys”.

“He’s a lovely person, with a lovely family,” he said.

Bernard Ingle, Nelson’s trainer who runs St Thomas’s gym in Sheffield, said: “Johnny is a gentleman, a great guy. I knew there has been some something not quite right. It has been a nightmare.”

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