‘I thought it was the end’: Man jailed for attempting to kidnap woman during her morning walk

Jeffrey Kelly (32) sentenced to nine years and further post release supervision over incident in Portadown in May 2020

A man who stalked several women in Co Armagh before targeting a lone female walker, and twice heaving her “kicking and screaming” into the boot of his car, has been jailed for nine years.

Judge Roseanne McCormick QC labelled Jeffrey Kelly (32) a dangerous offender who posed a significant risk to the public and ordered that he be subject to an additional four years on licence after being released. The judge told Craigavon Crown Court that Kelly caused “significant psychological trauma” to his victim and created a sense of terror among the wider public.

In a statement read to the court, the woman said “I thought it was the end when this was happening”. Judge McCormick praised the woman’s bravery and courage during and since the ordeal.

Kelly, from Brookhill in Lurgan, pleaded guilty to charges of kidnapping and robbing the woman’s phone on May 10th, 2020.

Judge McCormick said the woman was listening to music while walking in Portadown on a Sunday morning when Kelly “appeared from a hedge on the left hand side of the alleyway, grabbed her by the neck and body and dragged her towards Kensington Gardens” where she could see a parked car with the boot open.

“She told him to take whatever he wanted but he didn’t speak, he just grunted with the effort of the struggle,” said the judge.

Struggled free

She said Kelly twice tried to heave the terrified woman “kicking and screaming” into the boot on two occasions but that she managed to struggle free.

After the second failed attempt, Kelly shoved the woman away and told her to run. She ran to her parents house in a hysterical state and was eventually able to tell them and the police what had happened. The court heard Kelly was arrested within hours after witnesses came forward.

Detectives were able to ascertain that in the lead up to the incident, Kelly had driven around stalking other women before selecting a victim. The judge said one of the women stalked earlier was so concerned about the distinctive red Audi that she noted the registration.

When arrested, Kelly accepted he was in the area at the time of the kidnapping but denied doing anything wrong. He later confessed but said his motivation robbery and an intention to steal to fund his drug habit rather than sex.

However, Judge McCormick rejected this and said Kelly carried out internet searches shortly before the incident for ‘Portadown escorts and erotic massage’ and ‘escorts Lurgan’. She questioned why he twice forcibly tried to put the woman into the boot twice when he already had her phone. Kelly was on licence at the time for smashing a bottle into the face of a teenager, who was left needing reconstructive surgery.