Man who claimed he kidnapped EastEnders actress Gemma McCluskie and demanded ransom from her family is sentenced

Sam Dunne claimed he had kidnapped Eastenders star Gemma McCluskie (above) and demanded a ransom fro

Sam Dunne claimed he had kidnapped Eastenders star Gemma McCluskie (above) and demanded a ransom fromher family - Credit: submitted

A man who claimed to have kidnapped murdered EastEnders actress Gemma McCluskie and demanded a ransom from her family has today been convicted of making malicious phone calls.

Sam Dunne, 19, of Knock Road, Greenhithe, Dartford struck after the 29-year-old was reported missing from her home and her family launched an appeal to find her.

Seeing phone numbers for both of her brothers on a poster, Dunne called them on March 6, 2012.

The warehouse worker claimed he had Miss McCluskie, who was working as a barmaid in Dalston at the time of her murder, and demanded money for her release.

In the first call to Tony McCluskie, who was later found guilty of her murder, Dunne said if the family wanted to see Miss McCluskie again they needed to take £2million to Benfleet International Station.

In a second phonecall he requested another 500 Iraq dollars before making a third call to repeat the initial demand for £2million.

When Tony McCluskie asked to speak to her, Dunne said she was in a locked room and had been stripped and sexually assaulted.

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The conversations on speaker phone were heard by several friends of the family who had gathered at the flat Miss McCluskie shared with her brother in Pelter Street, Bethnal Green to help search for her.

Danny McCluskie, the other brother, also received a call with the same demands.

The caller’s number had been withheld but police were able to trace it and subsequently Dunne.

On March 8 last year murder detectives investigating Miss McCluskie’s disappearance executed a warrant at Dunne’s address and arrested him.

In police interview he said he had been with friends who were joking about making calls to numbers they had seen on a Facebook page featuring an appeal to find a missing girl. He claimed he did not dial the numbers but he, among others, shouted demands down the phone.

But witnesses said they heard only one voice on the phone, not several.

Miss McCluskie’s dismembered body was later found, with her torso pulled from the Regents Canal in Hackney.

Tony McCluskie, 35, of Pelter Street, Bethnal Green was jailed at the Old Bailey for life with a recommendation he serve a minimum of 20 years in January for murdering and dismembering his sister.

Dunne denied four counts of sending by means of a public electronic communications network a message that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character under the Communications Act.

He later changed his plea to guilty and was sentenced at Medway Magistrates Court to six months imprisonment for all four counts, to run concurrently.

Investigating officer acting Det Ch Insp John Nicholson, from the homicide and serious crime command, said: “Dunne acted despicably, temporarily giving hope to Gemma’s many friends and family that she was indeed still alive.

“It’s hard to imagine how anyone could think it was a good ‘joke’ to torment a family going through such an incredibly difficult time in this way.

“Of course Tony McCluskie – who we now know had already murdered his sister – must have thought his luck was in as Dunne was providing him with an alibi. Within hours of these calls, Gemma’s torso was recovered from the Regents Canal in East London.

“At those early stages of the murder investigation it was unclear who was responsible, and I had to divert significant resources to arresting, searching and interviewing Dunne and his associates, resources that should have been committed to other vital aspects of the enquiry.”