A GANG of five men have been jailed for a total of 21 years after torturing a student and threatening to bury him alive at Brede High Woods.
Sam Simon lured 21-year-old victim Ben Hutchings, who was a friend of his, to a house in East Street, Hastings, before he, his brother Alex Simon and their friend Muhammet Yalcin tied the student up, gagged him and then punched, kicked and beat him with a hammer.
They then stuffed him into a body bag, loaded him into a car and were driven to Brede High Wood by Artur Oganesyan where they all discussed burying the student alive before they assaulted him again.
The two-hour ordeal on 19 September ended when the men took their terrified victim back to Hastings and released him in the street.
Jowad Ghemati later approached the victim and offered him thousands of pounds to drop the case.
Ben Hutchings suffered broken teeth, cuts and severe bruises and had to be treated at Conquest Hospital.
Sam Simon, 21, of Earl Street, Hastings, pleaded guilty to false imprisonment and drugs offences at Hove Crown Court and was jailed for nine years.
Alex Simon, 17, of Earl Street, Hastings, was convicted of false imprisonment and jailed for four years.
Yalcin, 20, of Kenilworth Road, St Leonards, was convicted of false imprisonment and jailed for five years.
Oganesyan, 23, of Stanley Road, Hastings, was convicted of false imprisonment and jailed for two years.
Jowad Ghemati, 27, of Holmhurst Lane, St Leonards, was convicted of witness intimidation and jailed for 12 months.
Detective Sergeant Michael Burnage said: “Sam Simon lured his friend to his home with the sole intention of torturing and robbing him.
“The victim had no idea what he was walking into when he went to the house in East Street and was subjected to a horrific attack.
“The gang took the attack even further by stuffing the victim into a bag, driving him into woodland and saying they were going to kill him.
“The victim was both assaulted and left terrified that he was going to be murdered - a level of cruelty that seems inexplicable at the hands of someone he believed was his friend.
“A later attempt by one of the group to intimidate the victim into dropping the case thankfully was unsuccessful.
“The men involved will now deservedly spend long periods in prison for their crimes.
“I would again like to thank the victim and the witnesses who attended court for their bravery, as well as the CPS for supporting this investigation.
“Incidents like this are very rare in Sussex.
“We will not tolerate any attempt to intimidate witnesses or prevent justice being done and will take action to prosecute those responsible.”
Ben Hutchings told the Observer that he feared he was going to die. He said: “I could not believe this was happening to me.”
Speaking after the sentences were handed out he said: “I feel a bit happier but it hasn’t changed the fact that it happened.
The sentences weren’t long enough and that is the reason they are being appealed. I now feel safer in my area and I can carry on with my university studies. My family feel happy now that these people are off the streets.