A man who worked at a Dorset petrol station has been jailed for his role in the kidnap of the couple who owned it.

Henry Ajanthan, 33, of Manor Garden in Swanage, who worked at the Texaco petrol station at Victoria Avenue, Swanage, and Ramesh Sornalingam, 38, of York Road in Gloucester, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to kidnap, false imprisonment and blackmail at Croydon Crown Court.

Ajanthan was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment and Sornalingam was jailed for seven and a half years.

The kidnapping took place on 29 May last year when a British couple, Kanapathipillai Thavarajah and his wife Salajah, flew to Chennai in India for a holiday.

They were met at the airport by a man purporting to be from their hotel, but he took them to a waiting vehicle where they were kidnapped at knifepoint.

The man then drove them to a house in a remote part of India about 100 miles from Chennai where they were held captive for more than three days.

During this time the couple’s 25 year old daughter, who lives in London, received a number of telephone calls demanding £500,000 ransom payment for the release of her parents.

The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) Kidnap Unit worked with the Indian authorities, and on 1 June Indian Police identified where the hostages were being held and rescued them. Thirteen individuals in India have been charged in connection with the kidnapping.

During the investigation police discovered the involvement of the two men in the UK. Ajanthan, who had gambling debts, provided the victims’ travel itinerary and a photograph of the male victim, and Sornalingam passed the details on to the kidnappers in India.

Ajanthan was arrested at the petrol station where he worked on 2 June. Sornalingam was arrested at his solicitor’s office in London on June 6 last year

DS Craig Magee of the MPS Kidnap Unit said: “The victims suffered a terrifying ordeal at the hands of a group of criminals who saw kidnap as an easy way to extort a large sum of money from this family. I am pleased that we were able to bring their ordeal to a swift conclusion.

“These convictions demonstrate the commitment of the MPS Kidnap Unit to working closely with our international partners and bring those operating within criminal networks to justice.”