ROME—A 25-year-old British tourist who was found chained barefoot to a radiator in a dark room in central Italy this week claiming he had been kidnapped risked his life over a lost bet five years ago. Patrick Sam Kourosh Demilecamps angered Italian police in 2016 on the island of Sicily when he plunged some 180 feet into the sea, nearly killing himself.
Then, police told local reporters that he was “either very brave or very stupid or maybe a combination of both” to take the risk. He told a British outlet that he was lucky to have survived the jump.
Demilecamps now says he was held for eight days by three men and one woman who demanded €7,000 from his wealthy father. The kidnappers say instead that it was Demilecamp’s idea to fake the kidnapping to get money from his dad.
The four alleged kidnappers—Rubens Beliga Gnaga, 18, of Italy; Dona Conte, 22, from Guinea, and Ahmed Rajraji, 21, from Morocco; and his girlfriend Aida Carpani, 20, from Montenegro—are on house arrest pending the investigation. They say they partied with their victim in recent weeks and knew him well.
Police found Demilecamps after he sent what is being described as a “cryptic” message to his father, who then alerted British authorities who worked with the Italian cops. In the message, Demilcamps reportedly asked his father not to contact authorities but to instead send the cash to his bank account so he could pay the ransom himself. But given that Demilecamps’ father is described as a multi-millionaire, authorities in Italy have questioned why they didn’t ask for more money if the story is true.
The kidnappers say that Demilecamps owed them the sum of money for an undisclosed “loan” and that he is the one who devised the plan to get the cash from his dad, even asking that they take photographs of him handcuffed to win sympathy. “It wasn’t a real kidnapping but a sham to convince the Englishman’s family to send him 7,000 euros to make up a debt,” Gnaga told a judge during the arraignment, according to police at a press conference on Friday.
The judge let all four suspects out of jail and placed them on house arrest, requiring that all but Carpani wear an electronic bracelet until the case can be investigated further.
Demilecamps, who is said to have now secured legal representation in Italy, has not made a statement to the press. Police say he told them that he was likely pinpointed because of his lavish spending. He says he was humiliated, starved and kept in a dark room.
He and a friend had been in Italy since June to escape the strict COVID-19 lockdown in the U.K. His friend, unidentified by police, apparently corroborated the kidnapping and said he had escaped and returned to the U.K.
Italian Carabinieri officer Massimiliano Mengasini, who is leading the investigation, told reporters on Friday they are now examining both sides of the story to find out what actually happened.