An ex-Pizza Hut employee masterminded an astonishingly outlandish plot to kidnap and kill British TV presenter Holly Willoughby using an American hitman and a “restraint kit,” British prosecutors alleged on Friday.
The man, Gavin Plumb, had described himself as deeply depressed due to his weight—which at one point stood at 489 pounds, leaving him in constant pain, he told a BBC show about weight loss in 2017.
“I’ve never had any support for my depression. I’ve just been put on antidepressants and sent away,” he complained at the time. Six years later, Plumb appeared in court, accused of formulating a murder plot that was foiled by police on Wednesday.
Earlier this week, Plumb drew up a “detailed plan” to kidnap and kill Willoughby, and solicited help from a “hitman” in the United States to aid in the effort, according to charges filed against him that were unveiled Friday.
The 36-year-old security officer “assembled a kidnap and restraint kit capable of encouraging or assisting the commission of the kidnap of Holly Willoughby,” prosecutors alleged on Friday.
Essex Police arrested Plumb on Wednesday, just one day after he allegedly plotted the crimes online. The supposed American hitman was set to travel to the United Kingdom next week; his identity was not disclosed and it was unclear if he had been arrested.
Willoughby, who hosts two programs—This Morning and Dancing on Ice—on the ITV network has been off the air since Thursday.
The network sent out a message of support for Willoughby: “This news has come as a huge shock to everyone at This Morning and ITV. We are providing all of the support we can to Holly and her family at this incredibly distressing time.”
Plumb, who was described by the Daily Mail as a “loner,” only spoke briefly during his appearance at Chelmsford magistrates’ court, confirming his name, birth date, address and employer. A judge ordered that he remain in custody until his scheduled plea hearing on Nov. 3.
Plumb had a bright outlook on the future when he spoke to the BBC again in 2018 following a weight-loss operation, stating that, “My main aim is to get back into work and I’ve already started looking.”
Detective Superintendent Rob Kirby spoke about the breakneck speed at which the alleged murder plot was uncovered and foiled. “This was an extremely fast-paced investigation, with many of our officers and national partners working overnight to secure these charges,” Kirby said.
The Sun reported that the alleged murder plot left Willoughby “shocked and distraught,” and that she is now under police guard at her home.
Kirby emphasized that the “safeguarding of any victim is paramount and we will continue to prioritise this and working with the Metropolitan Police Service as the investigation proceeds.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak appeared on This Morning to wish Willoughby well. “I’m so sorry to hear everything going on with Holly,” he said during the appearance. “I just want to send my best to her and her family.”