UK convicts 5 men in UK's largest cash robbery

Gang abducted security company depot's manager and his family at gunpoint, robbed $100 million.

London great 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
London great 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Five men were convicted Monday of robbery, kidnapping and firearms charges for carrying out Britain's largest cash robbery - the theft of 53 million pounds (US$100 million) from a security company depot. Two other defendants were acquitted by a jury at London's Central Criminal Court. Gang members dressed as police officers abducted manager Colin Dixon and his family at gunpoint while they robbed the depot of Securitas Cash Management Ltd. in Tonbridge, about 45 kilometers southeast of London, in February 2006. Former roofer Lea Rusha, 35; car salesman Stuart Royle, 49; unemployed Jetmir Bucpapa, 26; garage owner Roger Coutts, 30; and post office worker Emir Hysenaj, 28 - all from Tonbridge or other parts of southern England - were convicted of conspiracy to rob, conspiracy to kidnap and conspiracy to possess a firearm. They are due to be sentenced Tuesday. An eighth suspect, hairdresser Michelle Hogg, was initially charged alongside the others but agreed to turn prosecution witness. She told the court how she had provided the robbers with sophisticated prosthetic disguises to wear during the heist. Prosecutor John Nutting told the jury that the gang was motivated by dreams of "luxury, ease and idleness." "All were motivated by the prospect of dishonest gain almost beyond the dreams of avarice," he said. Jurors were told how manager Dixon was stopped by what appeared to be a police car as he drove home from work on February 21, 2006. While he was kidnapped and taken to an isolated farm, his wife and young child were lured from their home by other men posing as police, who said Dixon had been injured in a car accident. Dixon was told his wife and child would be harmed if he did not help the robbers get into the depot. Once inside, robbers wearing ski masks and carrying automatic weapons trussed up 14 employees with cable ties, and then loaded bundles of cash into a Renault truck. Prosecutors said the gang left more than 150 million pounds (US$300 million) behind because it would not fit into the half-ton truck. Police and prosecutors said that despite the complexity and daring of the crime, people should not romanticize the robbers. "It is really important that people don't start thinking of the gang as Robin Hood characters," said Detective Sergeant Andy Nicholl, one of the investigating officers. "I do not recall Robin Hood kidnapping a child at gunpoint." Police have recovered about 20 million pounds (US$40 million) of the Securitas money. The sophisticated robbery is believed to be the largest heist during peacetime. It eclipsed a US$70 million theft from the Central Bank in Fortaleza, Brazil, in August, a US$65 million heist at the Knightsbridge Safe Deposit Center in London in 1987, and a US$50 million robbery at the Northern Bank of Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 2004. But all four were dwarfed by the theft of US$900 million in US bills and as much as US$100 million worth of euros from the Iraq Central Bank in 2003.