Airline chief attacked as robbers lay siege to London's rich elite

Click to follow
A multi-millionaire airline tycoon has been beaten and robbed at his home, the latest in a series of violent assaults on wealthy London residents. Alexandra Williams chronicles a growing crime problem.

Tony Ryan, the owner of the low-cost, no-frills airline Ryanair, has became the latest victim of a gang of robbers who are targeting the super rich in London.

The tycoon was attacked by robbers who forced their way into his west London home, punching him to the ground and stealing cash and jewels.

Mr Ryan, who has an estimated personal fortune of pounds 150m, was ambushed as he and a female companion left his home. Two men forced the couple back inside the house in Cadogan Square, Chelsea, one of London's most desirable addresses, and insisted that Mr Ryan reveal the safe combination number.

When he refused, the multi-millionaire was beaten to the ground, leaving the robbers to search the house. The men grabbed pounds 400 in cash and jewellery and escaped in a car.

Mr Ryan suffered minor injuries but did not require hospital treatment.

Detectives have not ruled out the possibility that the raid is linked to a string of violent assaults on wealthy London residents - most of them conspicuous as rich and relatively easy targets.

It is understood that Scotland Yard has been tracking the team of criminals since last Christmas although they are believed to have been carrying out assaults since June 1996.

The gangs cruise expensive areas of London searching for rich-looking people and have targeted them leaving shops such as Harrods and Harvey Nichols in expensive cars and followed them home.

The victims have been attacked, often at knifepoint, as they got out of their vehicles or as they were about to enter their homes.

Police believe this was the method used by the gang who held Michael Green, chairman of Carlton Communications, and his wife Tessa, at knifepoint at their Mayfair home in April. Mr Green was slashed across the face and hands and his wife's pounds 1,000 necklace was taken along with pounds 500 and some credit cards.

In February, Lady Weidenfeld, wife of the publishing millionaire Lord Weidenfeld, was robbed of nearly pounds 110,000 in jewellery on the doorstep of her flat on the Chelsea Embankment. She was not harmed in the attack.

The Formula One chief Bernie Ecclestone was attacked in July last year as he tried to shield his wife Slavica, who had a pounds 650,000 diamond ring snatched from her finger outside their home. They were approached by two men who were lying in wait for them as they got out of their car near their house in Chelsea Square.

A month later, the wife of Christopher Moran, a multi-millionaire City financier, fought with a gang of five muggers who stole her watch after ambushing her and her eight-year-old twin sons in the underground car park of their Chelsea home. Helen Moran was eventually pinned to the ground as the gang wrenched off her pounds 15,000 Rolex watch and grabbed at her handbag. But the former beauty queen, who weighs only seven and a half stone, kicked and screamed and the men eventually ran off without her bag.

Recent assaults have also included the mugging of a Saudi Arabian diplomat, whose pounds 95,000 Mercedes was stolen, and an attack on the Earl of Dudley and his wife at their Kensington mansion.

Detective Constable Gareth John, heading the inquiry into Saturday's robbery, said: "It's too early to say whether this attack is connected to previous ones but we can't rule out the possibility."

Police said the two men they are hunting in connection with the attack are both black, in their twenties and 6ft tall.