Fresh doubts were raised last night over the alleged kidnapping of a former British public schoolboy in Italy.
Sam Demilecamps, 25, was found malnourished and chained to a radiator after he phoned his estranged father saying he needed £6,000 or would be dead the next day.
He later told officers he had been waterboarded and tasered while held hostage by three men and a woman.
Sam Demilecamps, 25, with his mother Jally. Last night he was barred from the pub beside his former flat in Brighton
But one of the suspects has since told a judge the ‘kidnap’ two weeks ago was all Mr Demilecamps’s idea – to pay off a debt.
And his own family have admitted they do not know who to believe.
The suspects have been bailed under house arrest and their alleged victim is understood to have returned to Britain, while police inquiries continue.
It is not the first time the former boarding school pupil – who describes himself as an ‘adrenaline junkie’ – has needed emergency help.
Mr Demilecamps attended the £36,000-a-year Hampshire boarding school Lord Wandsworth College. He now describes himself as a chef
Five years ago, he had to be rescued after leaping into the sea from a 180ft cliff in Sicily ‘for a dare’.
Last night Mr Demilecamps, who was barred from the pub beside his former flat in Brighton, could not be contacted for comment.
His father Patrick Demilecamps, a former investment banker who used to work in England but now lives in Brussels, said: ‘I don’t have anything to add to what has already become public knowledge.’
His stepfather Derek McCall, 61, managing director of a biotechnology company, and skin therapist mother Jally, 60, declined to discuss the ‘kidnap’ at their £2.5million mansion in Hampshire.
Mr Demilecamps seen being rescued after a friend dared him to jump into the sea from a 180ft cliff at the resort of Taormina, Sicily in 2016
But a source close to the family said: ‘His dad lost contact with him a long time ago – then he was suddenly contacted by Sam during this “event” in Italy.
‘He told him: “I owe money to very dangerous people. This is a matter of life and death – if I don’t get 7,000 euros I’m dead tomorrow.”
‘But now it seems the situation is not quite what it appeared – and the so-called kidnappers are saying it was fraud all planned by Sam.’
The source added: ‘And what sort of kidnapper would let their hostage have a mobile phone – when everyone knows the police will be able to track them?
‘We all know about Sam’s cliff jump. That sums up what he’s like. And he spends money he hasn’t got.’
The former boarding school pupil – who describes himself as an ‘adrenaline junkie’ – has in the past needed emergency help for jumping off a cliff for a dare
Mr Demilecamps, who attended £36,000-a-year Hampshire boarding school Lord Wandsworth College and now describes himself as a chef, had been in Italy since June, and at the start of October was at a hostel in Florence.
After his father received his call asking for 7,000 euros, officers tracked him down within 36 hours and launched an armed raid.
They found Mr Demilecamps chained and barefoot in a darkened room in a top-floor flat in the small town of Monte San Giusto in central Italy.
Suspects Rubens Beliga Gnaga, 18, an Italian, Dona Conte, 22, from Guinea, Ahmed Rajraji, 21, from Morocco, and Aida Carpani, 20, from Montenegro, were arrested on suspicion of kidnap.
Gnaga, however, told an Italian court: ‘It was a sham. We had lent him €7,000. The kidnapping was staged to convince his family to send us the money.’
The four were freed under house arrest while inquiries continue.
An English friend who Mr Demilecamps had been travelling with is understood to have corroborated his claims.
Mr Demilecamps told police: ‘My captors had seen me spending lavishly. They kicked and punched me, used a taser and pepper spray, then dragged me into a car and gave me tranquillisers.
‘They drove me to Monte San Giusto. I was held underwater in the bath and beaten.’
Carabinieri officer Massimiliano Mengasini said: ‘When [he was] found he was really shaken.’
Sean Kelly, National Crime Agency anti-kidnap and extortion unit operations manager, said: ‘We are pleased that this incident has been resolved successfully.’
But an Italian police source added: ‘There are certain aspects which are still being looked at – such as the small amount of ransom demanded, and the fact he already knew the kidnappers.’
In November 2016 he broke a vertebra after jumping 180ft into the sea from a cliff in Sicily.
At the time a police spokes- man said: ‘He was certainly fortunate to survive.’