Depot robbery biggest in UK history

The robbery of between £25m (€37m) to £40m (€58.6m) from a security depot in England is the biggest cash heist in British history.

The previous "record" was the £26.5m (€38.8m) stolen from Belfast’s Northern Bank in December 2004, a robbery widely blamed on the IRA.

Four men, including 24-year-old bank employee Chris Ward, have so far been charged in connection with the Belfast robbery. It is thought the latest heist, in Tonbridge, England, may have been modelled on the Northern Bank one.

A massive police search continued today for the armed gang responsible for the Tonbridge depot robbery.

The Bank of England said at least £25m (€37m) had been stolen from a security depot yesterday morning, but sources said the true figure could be as high as £40m (€58.6m), making it the biggest heist in British history.

The Governor of the Bank of England called for a review of security arrangements for the storage of banknotes following the raid on the Securitas cash depot in Tonbridge, Kent.

The raid happened at about 2.15am yesterday when 15 members of staff were threatened and tied up.

The gang, posing as police, abducted the depot manager, his wife and son, and threatened him at gunpoint, forcing him to cooperate, Kent Police said.

Police said the heist began when the manager of Securitas’ main cash depot south of the Thames was pulled over while driving at 6.30pm on Tuesday by what he believed was an unmarked police car.

A man wearing a high-visibility jacket and “police-style” hat got out of the vehicle, which had blue lights in the radiator grille, and spoke to him.

Thinking they were genuine police officers, the manager got into their car where they handcuffed him.

Meanwhile, two more fake policemen visited the manager’s wife and young son, told them the manager had been involved in an accident, and took them from their home, officers said.

The manager was driven off and the car was later met by a white van. He was tied up and put inside and taken to an unknown location where he was threatened at gunpoint and told to “cooperate or his family would be at risk”, a Kent Police spokesman said.

At about 1am he was taken to the Vale Road security depot where at least six men, some masked and armed with handguns, threatened and tied up the staff.

The gang loaded the cash into a white lorry before driving off at about 2.15am yesterday.

Police were alerted about an hour later when the shocked but uninjured staff activated an alarm.

The manager, his wife and son – who had been taken to an undisclosed location - were also unhurt.

Detective Superintendent Paul Gladstone of Kent Police’s serious and organised crime unit said the raid was “clearly a robbery that was planned in detail over time”.

A Bank of England spokeswoman said: “We have already been reimbursed by Securitas for the initial estimate of £25m (€37m) and any further sum will be reimbursed to the bank as soon as the amount is known.

“There is no cost at all to the bank or the taxpayer.

She said the bank’s governor had asked for a review of the security arrangements for the storage of banknotes.

A Securitas spokesman said an audit to work out exactly how much had been stolen would take place through the night.

The firm’s operations director, Tony Benson, said: “The fact that no one has been physically injured should not mask the brutality of this crime and we are all committed to working with the police to catch those responsible and see justice brought to bear.”

Det Supt Gladstone said: “It is vitally important that we hear from people who may have seen something suspicious or someone acting oddly either round the depot in Vale Road, or in any of the locations where this gang were operating in the time up to the robbery.”

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