Police in hunt for football gang

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The Independent Online
Police are examining possible links between three robberies on prominent football personalities after the wife of Ron Atkinson, manager of Coventry City, was left handcuffed at her home overnight.

Interpol has been contacted about the possibility of a gang being responsible for robberies against famous people as far away as Australia. They were alerted after it was noticed the same method was used in the crimes. It involves attacking the man and handcuffing him, before making the wife show where the valuables are kept and then handcuffing her.

In the latest incident three masked raiders burst into the home of Maggie Atkinson, the wife of Ron Atkinson, near Bromsgrove, Hereford and Worcester, at about 9.30pm on Wednesday. Mrs Atkinson was forced to open the family safe and the robbers got away with cash and jewellery.

Before leaving they handcuffed Mrs Atkinson to the banister of the upstairs landing. She was not discovered until 12 hours later at 10.30am yesterday by a family employee. Mrs Atkinson was described as "extremely distressed" but suffered no injury in the raid except for abrasions caused by the handcuffs.

Mr Atkinson said: "It has been particularly distressing, but fortunately Maggie is very resilient."

Det Insp Steve Walters, leading the investigation, said last night: "We will be talking to colleagues in other forces where similar incidents have occurred."

Staffordshire police are investigating the robbery of Bill Bell, chairman of Port Vale football club, at his home in January. During the raid Mr Bell and his wife, both in their sixties, were left tied up in separate rooms after three masked men plundered their home in Stoke-on-Trent. Police are also looking at links with the robbery of Leeds United chairman Leslie Silver. Three masked men broke into Mr Silver's home in Leeds on 11 March and bound and gagged him and his wife before stealing jewellery.

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