Watch CBS News

International murder plot targeting British TV host Holly Willoughby foiled thanks to undercover Minnesota officer

How an undercover officer unraveled a murder plot from thousands of miles away
How an undercover officer unraveled a murder plot from thousands of miles away 02:30

OWATONNA, Minn. — An undercover Minnesota police officer is being credited for stopping an international murder plot.

Gavin Plumb was convicted last week of planning to kidnap, rape and murder the popular British television host, Holly Willoughby.

Police busted down his door to make the arrest last year, something that wouldn't have happened without an Owatonna detective.

Jeff Mundale, Owatonna's police chief, says Plumb made contact with the detective online, looking for help with his plan.

"In my 29 years of serving law enforcement, I've never seen such a skilled detective in engaging in this sort of work," said Jeff Mundale, Owatonna's police chief. "It's certainly impressive."

Mundale says it took his detective just two days of messaging and building trust to get the information he needed to decide to alert the FBI and British police.

In written answers to questions, the officer tells WCCO that Plumb's plan was "to conduct a home invasion, use chloroform he purchased...leave with the victim in her vehicle. Plumb planned to sexually assault the target and to kill her and dispose of her body."  

National Television Awards 2023 - London
Holly Willoughby Lucy North/PA Images via Getty Images

"They did a lot of homework and research on the intended victim," Mundale said. "Knew where the victim lived, route to work."

Mundale says his detective is gifted at using more than a dozen different aliases to monitor the dark corners of the internet.

"This detective has that knack to build trust, relationships, rapport and kind of communicate at their level...and be willing to help them achieve their goals and their fantasies," he said.

The officer says "Working the street, being real with people and bonding with your community is an opportunity to hone those skills. Also, it doesn't hurt to have the gift of gab."

When Plumb was convicted, both British police and Willoughby specifically thanked the Owatonna detective.

"I'm nothing but proud of our agency and particularly this detective who was able to foil this case," Mundale said. "His work is nothing but fantastic."

Doing this online undercover work is not the detective's full-time job but Mundale says the officer likes doing it to keep himself motivated and have a greater impact.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.