Holly Willoughby: How Gavin Plumb went from 'quiet hermit' to 'imminent danger' to TV presenter

Gavin Plumb had more than 10,000 pictures of Holly Willoughby, and the television presenter was the first name on the handwritten list of 136 female celebrities he kept in his bedside drawer.

But prosecutors said the 37-year-old security guard's obsession went beyond mere fantasy - and he planned to kidnap, repeatedly rape and murder the former This Morning host to fulfil his "completely out of control" sexual desires.

Warning: Contains graphic content some readers may find distressing

It wouldn't have been the first time he had committed violent offences against a woman.

Chelmsford Crown Court heard he had a "stewardess fantasy" and in August 2006 tried to abduct two air hostesses off the Stansted Express train while armed with an imitation firearm and three lengths of rope.

Plumb was handed a 12-month suspended prison sentence and in December 2008 went on to attack two "shouting and screaming and crying" 16-year-old girls in the stockroom of the Woolworths unit where he worked, the jury was told.

Armed with a box cutter, he taped one of their hands behind her back before they managed to escape. He served 16 months in prison.

'Hermit' who rarely went outside

Ellie Hoad, who dated Plumb for three months in 2007, described him as a "hermit" who stayed inside playing video games such as Call Of Duty unless he had to go outside.

He liked Batman and Star Wars, she told Sky News, and was "really quiet" but had a "good personality and a good sense of humour".

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Giving evidence, father-of-two Plumb said he was close to his mother and stepfather and one of his three brothers.

And Ms Hoad said there was no hint of what police described as the "misogynistic" man who was "willing to use violence at the highest level against women and girls".

His neighbour Joanna said she rarely saw Plumb but would occasionally hear him in the garden that backed on to hers having "unusual conversations".

"I thought that he was building a gaming forum, but actually maybe it was alluding to something else," she told Sky News.

Plumb told how he spent years confined to his flat when he talked to the BBC about his obesity in a 2018 documentary, describing how he only left his front door to put out a bin bag every few days.

He reached 35.5 stone at his heaviest, drinking 18 litres of cola every ten days, but following gastric surgery believed he had turned his life around.

Posing in a Batman T-shirt, with his thumb inside his trouser waistband to show how much weight he had lost, he said he wanted to get back to work and playing football.

"I'm not going to give up. I'm going to do everything I possibly can to get where I need to," he said.

"This surgery's not only going to change my life, it's going to save my life."

But Plumb's life, which he told jurors he spent 99.9% of online, took a much darker turn.

Chilling voice notes and 'kidnap kit'

Plumb's social media history shows he was sharing posts of a sexual nature about Willoughby at least as far back as 2014, Sky News has found.

Many of the messages he shared with contacts online were so depraved they were not read out in court as prosecutors said it would have breached Ms Willoughby's legal right to respect for her privacy and might even have contravened the Obscene Publications Act.

By December 2021, he was talking to a man in Ireland he knew as Marc, who told him he had previously been jailed for being a stalker who fantasised about raping TV stars.

Plumb outlined his plans in chilling voice notes - in one he talks about attacking Willoughby in the home she shares with her husband, the television producer Dan Baldwin, 49.

"Plan of action - basically we're going to hit it at night, less traffic on the road etc, chloroform both of them, that way they can be easily restrained, pick out outfits we like then obviously take her and the outfits with us and then we're gone," he says.

More "boring details" of the plot, including Plumb booking time off work from his security job at Greenway business centre, in Harlow, Essex, showed it was real, prosecutors said.

Plumb was an admin of a public Holly Willoughby fan group on a messaging app, with 50 members who shared and discussed images of her for their sexual gratification.

Calling himself "Big Bear", he was also a member of the "Abduct Lovers" group, which was being monitored by an undercover US police officer, using the name David Nelson, who gained his trust by sharing flight details and a fake ID.

Plumb sent the officer pictures of Willoughby, her home and a video of his "kidnap kit" - including shackles, a blindfold, handcuffs, a ball gag, rope and metal cable ties - laid out on his bed.

Plan to dispose of body in lake

In messages, he said he would slit Willoughby's throat before covering her in bleach and disposing of her body in a lake. He had been researching imitation firearms and had bought a folding knife, the court heard.

The officer, who told Plumb he would travel from New York to help him carry out the plan, was so concerned he alerted the FBI and police in the UK, who raided his flat in Harlow, Essex, on 4 October last year.

Two bottles labelled chloroform - later not found to contain the substance - along with the items from Plumb's kit were found in his flat.

Pictures show a wine fridge filled with bottles of cola and chocolate bars in his cluttered living room, with Ghostbusters toys on the shelves.

'Imminent danger'

Crown Prosecution Service specialist prosecutor Nicola Rice said Willoughby had no idea she was the target of his plot "until the police went round to her address to tell her about the imminent danger she was in".

She left This Morning after 14 years on the ITV show shortly after Plumb's arrest, saying in a social media post: "I have to make this decision for me and my family."

Willoughby has since returned to the screen, hosting Dancing On Ice 2024, and is due to present a Netflix show.

The presenter, who did not give evidence at Plumb's trial, was praised by police for her bravery after waiving her automatic right to anonymity as an alleged victim of a planned sexual offence.

Essex Police's Detective Chief Inspector Greg Wood said Plumb "was a violent, misogynistic man," adding: "I have no doubt if we hadn't acted when we did, [he] had the intention and capability and capacity to cause some really serious harm."

When he was arrested over the plot to kidnap Willoughby, Plumb told police: "I'm not gonna lie. She's a fantasy of mine."

Ms Rice said he "wasn't just a fantasist", but was "obsessed by rape and murder" and "posed a real threat to society".

"This wasn't just someone who was living in purely a fantasy world. He was encouraging others to assist him in the plan to take action," she said.

After he was found guilty of soliciting murder, encouraging kidnap and rape, his ex-girlfriend Ms Hoad said the trial had "shocked" her as it wasn't the same person she knew during dates at the cinema or McDonald's.

"I just can't get my head around it, that he's gone from the shy, quiet person I knew back all those years ago to now he wants to do this," she said.