Gavin Plumb's social media history reveals darkening obsession with Holly Willoughby

Gavin Plumb's social media history reveals the security guard was obsessed with Holly Willoughby years before he plotted to kidnap, rape and murder the celebrity, Sky News has found.

Warning: Contains graphic content some readers may find distressing

Access to online groups Plumb was a member of and posts by the 37-year-old on now-defunct social media profiles show his infatuation with Willoughby dating back to at least 2014.

Security guard guilty of Holly Willoughby murder and kidnap plot

A criminal psychologist says Plumb's behaviour shows "psychopathic tendencies", as experts warn of the central role that social media played in his plot.

While the full extent of his online activity is not publicly known, it offers a glimpse into the online circles he moved in.

'Abduct Lovers' group

According to the undercover US police officer who first encountered Plumb, he initially posted four photos of Willoughby on a public group on the app, Kik.

Kik Messenger is an online messaging app which allows users to chat directly with each other or in private or public groups.

The court heard Plumb responded to messages from the undercover officer on the public Kik group Abduct Lovers and said Willoughby was "in the public eye but doesn't have her own security and doesn't have CCTV at her house".

He said she was "the one in the public eye I want".

Read more:
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Sky News accessed the Abduct Lovers group and found Plumb was still a member of the group, nine months after his arrest. Kik does not allow users to view messages sent before joining.

We found Plumb created his Kik account in November 2022 - 11 months before he was arrested. His picture is a photo of Holly Willoughby in pyjamas - taken from the celebrity's lifestyle brand Instagram account, Wylde Moon.

At the time of publishing, Plumb's account is still searchable and has not been taken down by the platform. Sky News has approached Kik for comment.

Days after we joined, the Abduct Lovers group was not searchable. It is unclear whether we were removed or if the group itself was deleted. Sky News asked Kik for comment.

Other Kik groups Plumb was a part of

But Plumb's public obsession with Willoughby went beyond the Abduct Lovers group.

He was also the admin of another public Kik group with 50 members. Members post images and chat about Holly Willoughby, with some of the discussion sexually explicit in nature.

A message on the group seen by Sky News said it's for "real fans" of Willoughby and "ONLY Holly chat and pics are allowed".

While there were no recent messages from Plumb in the group, the group provides an insight into Plumb's online world.

The messages viewed by Sky News suggest the group has been used by members to share and discuss images of Willoughby for their sexual gratification.

The images of her shared in recent days include an explicit edited fake, created to make it appear as though the presenter was photographed naked with another woman.

The sharing of sexually explicit fakes without the consent of the person depicted was made a criminal offence with the passing of the Online Safety Act 2023.

Plumb's posts on Willoughby from 2014

But beyond Kik, Plumb's social media history shows his obsession was longstanding. We uncovered archived records of Plumb's account on the now-defunct social media platform Google Plus.

They show Plumb posted seven times under his real name in 2014. Of these posts, all but one were of a sexual nature and mentioned Willoughby.

The court heard Plumb also searched online for "how to meet people who plan to kidnap celebrities" and "killers from Harlow in Essex".

Sky News also analysed Plumb's Facebook account. However, his public posts to friends and in local groups did not discuss or feature Willoughby.

Plumb shows 'psychopathic tendencies'

Plumb said in court he spent his life online engaging in "wholesome chat" but also fantasising about having sex with celebrities, including Willoughby, whom he saw on daytime TV after he became housebound, having gained weight and reaching 35.5 stone.

Based on the Kik groups and court reports, criminal psychologist Dr David Holmes says Plumb's behaviour shows "psychopathic tendencies" and "obsessive traits".

While he does not believe Plumb fits entirely within the incel community, Dr Holmes says he has traits that lend themselves to it.

Dr Holmes said: "He's quite happy to impose his will over others and is more of what we call a predatory or resentful stalker. The resentful bit would put him into the category of the incel people. Where there is a sense that they are entitled to a relationship and they should be able to take that relationship by force if necessary."

He said Plumb may have been "withdrawn from real society possibly as a consequence of his overweight".

Dr Holmes described Plumb as "someone who has created an online life for themselves in the kind of uncertain knowledge that an offline life is impossible, and therefore that all their hopes and all their dreams are embedded in this online world".

He added: "The online world as it is and the social media aspect of it basically creates the possibilities for people like Plumb, to carry out these things and to actually harbour and grow these plots. It virtually would be impossible without social media."

Questions for social media companies

One expert told Sky News Plumb's case is a symptom of a wider challenge for social media platforms and society to tackle misogyny and hate.

Jacob Davey, director of policy & research, counter-hate at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, said this case "shines a light" on the way online communities and online spaces can "facilitate radicalising activity allowing individuals to live out egregious extreme fantasises that provide vectors to them to either influence or discuss these".

He added social media platforms need to "assess" both the risk and nature of content on their platforms and take action against activity that violates their guidelines.

In relation to Kik, Mr Davey said the platform "easily facilitates" anonymity and is "relatively inscrutable to others".

Sky News has approached Kik for comment.

Kik has faced criticism in the past over moderation on its platform and has previously been used by individuals investigated over crimes of a sexual nature.

Kik has a series of community guidelines including a Violent Content and Threats clause, a Hateful Content clause and a Graphic and Violent Content clause which it says users must follow.

Sky News asked Kik whether it was aware of the Abduct Lovers group and Gavin Plumb's Kik account and if so, whether the platform took any steps to moderate the accounts or content posted in the group.