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|Date||21 February 2006|
|Outcome||Largest cash robbery in British history (£53,116,760)|
|Suspect(s)||At least 36 arrests|
|Convictions||Jetmir Bucpapa (life)|
Roger Coutts (life)
The Securitas depot robbery was the largest cash robbery in British history. It took place on the evening of 21 February 2006 from 18:30 GMT until the early hours of 22 February 2006. Several men abducted and threatened the family of the manager, tied up fourteen staff members and stole £53,116,760 in bank notes from a Securitas Cash Management Ltd depot in Vale Road, Tonbridge, Kent.
The manager of the depot, Colin Dixon, was abducted at about 18:30 on 21 February 2006, while driving his silver Nissan Almera. He was pulled over on the A249 just outside Stockbury, a village northeast of Maidstone, by what he thought was an unmarked police vehicle, due to the blue lights behind the front grill. A man approached him in high-visibility clothing and a police-style hat. The manager proceeded to get into the police impostor's car, thinking that he was a police officer, where he was then handcuffed by others in the vehicle. He was then driven west on the M20 motorway to the West Malling bypass, where he was bound further, transferred into a white van and transported to a farm in Staplehurst, Kent.
As this was taking place, the manager's wife and eight-year-old son were being held hostage at their home in Herne Bay, after they answered the door to men dressed in police uniforms, who falsely informed them that the manager had been involved in a road traffic accident. They were then driven to the farm at which the manager was being held, where he was told, at gunpoint, that failure to co-operate could put him and his family in danger.
The depot manager, his wife and son were taken to the Securitas depot in Tonbridge at around 01:00, travelling in a plain white van, being held at gunpoint. At the depot, 14 members of staff were bound by robbers armed with handguns, shotguns, a Škorpion and AK-47s and wearing balaclavas.
The robbery came to an end at approximately 02:45. The staff, along with Mr Dixon's wife and son, were left locked in cash cages. However, one member of staff had a key to unlock the cage she was locked in; she was then able to free the others. It was still another half an hour before staff members, who had been tied up, managed to raise the alarm. Police officers arriving on the scene discovered staff, the manager and his family all bound, but physically unharmed.
Securitas and their insurers offered a reward of £2 million for information leading to the thieves' capture.
On 23 February 2006 at around 19:00 police confirmed the arrest in Forest Hill, South London of a man aged 29 and a woman aged 31, on suspicion of conspiracy to commit robbery. There were thought to be at least six armed robbers involved. On the same day, a 41-year-old woman was arrested at the Portman Building Society branch in Bromley in South London by the Metropolitan Police. The woman was moved to a police station in Kent to be questioned by detectives on suspicion of handling stolen goods. According to some news reports she was dressed as a Salvation Army nurse and apparently tried to deposit £6,000 cash bound in tape marked "Tonbridge".
As the investigation progressed, police traced a number of the vehicles involved in the robbery including a Parcelforce van thought to have been used in the abduction of the depot manager and his family. The van was found abandoned at the "Hook and Hatchet" pub in the village of Hucking, near Maidstone. A Volvo S60 and a red Vauxhall Vectra also thought to have been used (and made to look like unmarked police cars) in the abductions were found in the village of Leeds, near Leeds Castle overnight on 23 February 2006. The Volvo had apparently been set alight. On the same day Colin Dixon's Nissan Almera was also found in the car park of the "Cock Horse" pub in Detling.
The next day, Kent Police recovered a white Ford Transit van from the car park of the Ashford International Hotel. The van was found after a tip-off from a member of the public. The van and its contents were taken away from the hotel for forensic examination, and on 26 February 2006, it was announced that the van contained £1.3 million, along with guns, balaclavas and body armour.
Metal cages and packaging material that may have been used to transport the money were recovered in a field near Detling on 24 February 2006.
On the evening of 25 February 2006, forensic teams, accompanied by armed police officers, also raided a house in Southborough near Tunbridge Wells. On the afternoon of the next day, Kent Police challenged two men who then fled in a blue BMW 3 Series coupe on Marine Parade in Tankerton, near Whitstable. Police marksmen then appeared to shoot out at least one tyre bringing the car to a halt and arresting the driver and one other man nearby. Other reports have suggested the police may have in fact have used a "stinger" device.
On 27 February 2006, two individuals were detained by police in the Greenwich area of London by armed officers. The following day, the white 7.5 ton Renault Midlum lorry allegedly used to transport the stolen money was eventually recovered by police at an undisclosed location. Simultaneously, Kent police raided Elderden Farm in the Staplehurst area, apparently conducting extensive forensic searches of the surrounding land and buildings and seizing vehicles. Searches of local wells were also undertaken by police divers. The farm was owned by a local car dealer who could not be located at the time of the raid. A further arrest also took place of a woman who became the twelfth person detained during the investigation, most of whom have subsequently been released on bail.
Late on 1 March 2006, Kent Police confirmed that John Fowler (a car dealer and the owner of Elderden Farm) had been charged with conspiracy to rob Securitas and three charges of kidnapping; Stuart Royle had been charged with conspiracy to rob; and Kim Shackleton had been charged with handling stolen goods. They appeared at Maidstone Magistrates' Court on 2 March, and were remanded in custody until 13 March, when they appeared at Maidstone Crown Court. Jetmir Bucpapa was charged with conspiracy to commit robbery the next day, and Lea John Rusha was charged with the same offence on the day after that. Both appeared in court on 3 March and were remanded in custody until a preliminary hearing at Maidstone Crown Court on the 13th. Also on 2 March, during a raid on an industrial depot in Welling, a currently unknown amount of cash was discovered, and a further arrest was made. It has been reported that the amount of money is several million pounds. A further arrest was made in the Bexley area of London on Saturday 4 March in connection with the robbery. The man was subsequently released on bail bringing the total number of arrests at that stage to seventeen.
By 6 March police had recovered £11m as a result of various raids and forensic searches. The next day, two employees of a firm that had been contracted by Securitas were arrested. By 9 March police had recovered £19.7m as a result of various raids and searches.
On 25 June 2006, in a joint operation with Moroccan police, four men were arrested at a shopping centre in the Souissi district of the capital Rabat. Kent Police said in a statement that they had been tracking Lee Murray, a 26-year-old from Sidcup, South London, for three months. Murray was arrested with friend Paul "The Enforcer" Allen, whom police wish to interview, but on whom there is not presently sufficient evidence to charge. There is no treaty between the UK and Morocco, which made this difficult. Later Moroccan police revealed that Murray had also been charged with possession of "hard drugs". An officer said this could complicate extradition proceedings because in theory Murray would have to serve time in Morocco first for any offences committed there. Kent Police confirmed Murray's arrest the next day, and also stated that over 30 people had now been arrested in conjunction with the investigation. The Daily Mail gave the total number of arrests as 36 by the end of June 2006. By year's end, the investigation costs for the Kent police had swelled to £6 million, with aid requested from the Home Office towards their investigation cost.
In December 2006, Sean Lupton, who had been released on bail, was missing having failed to answer the conditions of his bail. Also in February 2007 Murray's lawyer speculated that Murray could be returned from Morocco to Britain in exchange for suspected terrorist Mohamed Karbouzi, who is wanted for questioning by the Moroccan authorities in connection with the 2003 Casablanca bombings.
The trial began on 26 June 2007 at the Old Bailey in London, presided over by Justice David Penry-Davey. The first three weeks of the trial focused on the role of the manager Colin Dixon with the defence cross-examination highlighting 'co-incidences' in his conduct which might be interpreted as suggesting he was the inside man.
On 28 January 2008, the jury returned guilty verdicts on Stuart Royle, Jetmir Bucpapa, Roger Coutts, Lea Rusha and Emir Hysenaj. The next day Emir Hysenaj was sentenced to 20 years in prison with an order that he serve a minimum of 10 years. Stuart Royle, Lea Rusha, Jetmir Bucpapa and Roger Coutts were given life sentences with an order that they serve a minimum of 15 years.
Prosecutors later decided to drop charges against Kim Shackleton, Raluca Millen and Chris Price, and the girlfriends of Royle, Bucpapa and Rusha respectively. Millen and Philp had been charged with conspiracy to rob, conspiracy to kidnap and conspiracy to possess firearms. Shackleton had been charged with assisting an offender. John Fowler, on whose property some of the money was found, Michelle Hogg, who made the gang's prosthetic disguises, and Keith Borer were all also acquitted.
Since the completion of both Trial I and Trial II, Kayenide 'Kane' Patterson, whom the police and CPS believe to be a key player in both the robbery and kidnapping, still remains missing presumably residing in the West Indies with a large quantity of the stolen money.
On 1 June 2010, Murray was jailed in Morocco for ten years for his part in the robbery; the sentence was later increased to 25 years. Kent Police Detective Superintendent Keith Judge said "I'm pleased that Murray has now been held accountable."
Time Inc. announced on 4 August 2008 that they would be making a film about Murray's alleged role in the robbery, based on an article about him in Sports Illustrated called "Breaking the Bank". In addition to the robbery, the film will also concentrate on his life, including his mixed martial arts career.
In February 2013, Malcolm Constable, who was believed by his brother Derek to be associated with the robbery, was found dead of a self-inflicted shotgun wound. Kent Police stated they had no record of any incidents involving Constable.
The 2004 Northern Bank robbery in Belfast, Northern Ireland, was known as the biggest cash robbery in UK history, after £26.4m was seized, a record that has been broken by the Tonbridge raid. The only larger cash robbery in history was in March 2003, when approximately US$1 billion was stolen from the Central Bank of Iraq, shortly after the United States began bombing Baghdad.
The raid has also been compared to the Great Train Robbery of 1963, where an inflation-adjusted £40 million was stolen, and the Graffs robbery where nearly £40 million worth of jewels was stolen by two armed men who walked into Graff Diamonds, Bond Street, London, in August 2009.
A Bank of England spokesman said last night: "We have already been reimbursed by Securitas for the initial estimate of £25 million…"