On this day in 2002, UK police pinched a plot to kidnap former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, and her two toddler children.
The hustle began to unravel when two undercover journalists from UK paper News Of The World managed to infiltrate the gang. Initially posing as a wealthy mobster who wanted to buy a ruby-encrusted Arabian crown stolen from upmarket auction house Sotheby’s, reporter Mazher Mahmood soon became privy to conversations outlaying the details of the proposed kidnapping. Mahmood convinced the criminals to hire his friend as the getaway driver, successfully embedding another undercover reporter into the group who went on to capture hours of footage of the men’s discussions via a tiny microphone and camera.
The gang planned to grab and sedate Victoria as she left the Beckham mansion in Herdfordshire – and, preferably, her children too. Managing Editor of News Of The World at the time, Stuart Kuttner, said of the ransom: “At one point it was suggested it might be £1 million, and another member of the gang said – I’ll paraphrase – ‘It’s hardly worth getting out of bed for that. Why don’t we go for £5 million?’”
NOTW quoted one of the criminals as saying: “If the kids are with her, it’s even better. We ask David Beckham for £5 million. It’s 100% he pays. But if something happens and he doesn’t pay, Victoria is going to die.”
Mahmood and his colleague gave information to London’ Metropolitan Police’s Serious and Organised Crime branch, who organised a set-up in which they ambushed the gang in a hotel carpark. The officers swiftly arrested the four men and one woman who had planned to hold Beckham and her children at a secret location.
Victoria was informed of the scheme by the police directly after the dramatic arrests. She waited until after the final siren of her football star husband David’s game (Manchester United vs. Southampton, which Manchester won 2-1) to tell him the news.
At the time, the Beckhams’ son Brooklyn was three years old and his little brother Romeo was just two months.