Our Century

Stephanie's eight-day ordeal

Michael Sams Stephanie Slater
Kidnapper and victim: Michael Sams and Stephanie Slater

Great Barr estate agent Stephanie Slater suffered an eight-day ordeal at the hands of a kidnapper who got away with a £175,000 ransom.

Stephanie was seized by chisel-wielding Michael Sams as she showed him around a house in Turnberry Road and spent part of her time in captivity blindfolded.

Dumped at 1am on January 30 only a few hundred yards from her home, she walked the rest of the way and and threw herself into the arms of her parents.

At a press conference later, she said she never believed she would be killed - Sams had assured her of that.

But she admitted her "sheer absolute terror", not knowing what was going to happen to her.

Smiling weakly, the former pupil of Churchfields High School, West Bromwich, told how she lived on soup, porridge and lots of Kit-Kats during her ordeal.

"I don't know how I kept going, I just tried not to think what was happening to me," she said.

During the kidnap newspapers, TV and radio bosses agreed a news blackout to give the police the chance to run a massive undercover operation.

Lenny and Dawn's surprise: Dudley-born comic and his comedienne wife Dawn French revealed they had adopted a little girl, Billie.

Lenny HenryThey had planned to have their mixed-race daughter christened at The Church of God of Prophecy in Brierley Hill where Lenny's mum was a member.

But the plans were ditched after Lenny refused to let any Press photographers attend. He had already sworn his family to secrecy over the proposed christening.

Instead the couple held an invitation-only service near their home in Berkshire.

He told the Express & Star in a letter: "I appreciate that your readers are interested in my career but I'd like some aspects of my private life to remain private.

"I decided rather than turn this important occasion in our lives into a circus sideshow, my daughter should be blessed quietly in a local church."

Lenny and Dawn had waited six months before announcing the adoption.

Tension rises as temples are hit by arsonists: Fears that India's religious violence was spilling over into Britain were sparked in December following three fires which destroyed one West Bromwich Hindu temple and damaged two others in Birmingham and Coventry.

Arsonists were blamed for the fire which gutted the Shree Krishna Temple in Black Lake in the early hours - and religious leaders estimated the damage as running into "millions of pounds."

The cost included severely damaged statues said to be irreplaceable.

Temple officials at West Bromwich called for calm amid fears that the fire was prompted by religious violence in India.

The Black Lake blaze followed a spate of similar incidents at Hindu temples on the same night in Birmingham, Coventry, and Bolton. There had been earlier attacks on temples in Derby and Bradford.

An attempt to fire the Hindu temple in Birmingham's Sparkbrook was unsuccessful when a petrol bomb failed to set the building ablaze.

An Arabic slogan was daubed on the wall of the Pragati Mandir Krishna temple and police believed the attack was motivated by religious upheaval in India.

MP airs laundry issue: Wolverhampton MP Dennis Turner was backed by local residents when in December he launched a fight to halt the proposed shut-down of loss-making laundries in multi-storey flats.

The MP put down a Commons motion, to be signed by MPs, calling on Wolverhampton Council to re-think the proposal.

Mr Turner maintained there was a "weight of feeling" against the closures locally.

Under the plan 62 laundries would go by April 1993 unless tenants associations or private firms came up with acceptable offers to run them free of council subsidy.

Council urges government to rethink plan: Wolverhampton's Tory-led council called on the Government in October to back-pedal on legislation aimed at clamping down on gipsy families and "new age" travellers - because it could hit property owners.

It was feared that some of the Government proposals could leave the door open to more invasions of council and privately-owned land in the town.

The council's policy committee decided to protest to the Environment Department over the plan.

Councillor Malcolm Gwinnett, told the committee that the proposals would leave Wolverhampton to pick up the bills for planned improvements to the Showell Road gipsy transit camp in the town.

Big hike in price of school meals: The price of school meals in Dudley were set to rise to 1 a day in October - making them the most expensive in the West Midlands.

The need for a hike in dinner money was blamed on the increase in the number of free dinners Dudley local authority was having to provide.

And there was a warning that there could be job cuts in the council's catering division if hard-up parents could not pay and fewer meals were needed.

The council's deputy chief education officer, Don Moss, said in a report that meals were costing the local authority 1.2 million a year.

It was revealed that a 15p increase would make Dudley's dinners the most expensive in the West Midlands, Staffordshire, Shropshire and Warwickshire.

In brief . . . Wolverhampton Council unveiledplans to shut down three secondary schools in June.

In a row over safety and maintenance, West Midlands Travel was ordered in October to have all its 1,800 vehicles MoT tested.

A vice girl was robbed at gunpoint in December by a client immediately after having sex with him in Walsall. Police were alerted after the 20-year-old victim ran to a factory and told workers what had happened.

In the next 100 years they might run out of computers