Robbers grab pounds 5m from security van

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The Independent Online
Armed robbers hijacked a security van and escaped with an estimated pounds 5m yesterday, one of Britain's largest cash hauls.

The four masked raiders ambushed the Securicor van at 8am as it was making a delivery of cheques to the Midland Bank district service centre in Salford, Greater Manchester. As one of the guards entered the building, the driver was threatened with a pistol and forced to open the van door.

The gang then forced him to drive them to Hope Street nearby, where he was handcuffed to railings while the robbers transferred cash bags and boxes to a white transit van. This was later found abandoned with its number plates missing. A workman saw the guard being handcuffed to the railings in the quiet cul-de-sac behind Salford fire station and alerted police.

Britain's largest cash haul was pounds 6m, in the 1983 Security Express robbery in Shoreditch, east London, for which Ronnie Knight and his two brothers were jailed. The pounds 26m Brinks-Mat robbery of 1983 and the pounds 60m Knightsbridge safe deposit raid of 1989 involved bullion and jewellery.

Securicor yesterday offered a reward of pounds 250,000 for information leading to an arrest. A spokesman said: "Securicor takes all incidents extremely seriously, as the safety of its staff and the public is of paramount importance. Securicor is doing everything possible to assist the police with their investigations."

The Midland Bank service centre, off West Egerton Street, Salford, processes branch vouchers from all over the North-west. A spokeswoman for the bank reassured customers that any disruption should be kept to a minimum.

"Branches keep back-up copies of all transactions," she said. "And many of the transactions contained on the vouchers would already have been input straight into the computer system."

One of the gang in yesterday's robbery was 5ft 6-7ins tall with a blue anorak, and spoke with a strong Irish accent. Another was of mixed race, six feet tall and slim with a northern accent. The third was 5ft 9-10ins tall and wore black trousers and a black anorak.

The raid was the seventh on Securicor guards in Salford in eight months, although police said they were not linking the robberies. The first was last October, when two guards were attacked outside a supermarket in Hankinson Way, Pendleton, and robbed of pounds 11,000.

The Midland Bank service centre is next to a Sainsbury's superstore where gunmen abducted a woman in a bungled robbery last February, opening fire to warn off pursuing staff. In March two gunmen and a third robber kidnapped a guard as he emerged from Safeways in Swinton with a cash box. They escaped with pounds 60,000.

n A man was shot dead during a failed raid on a jeweller's shop in Billericay High Street, Essex, yesterday. The man, a member of staff in his thirties, was shot in the side at point blank range as he attempted to tackle two armed robbers. The robbers, said to be in their 20s and around 5ft 9in tall, were armed with a sawn-off shotgun. They fled empty-handed after the shooting.