Armed raiders jailed after trial without jury

The first major criminal trial to be held without a jury in Britain for more than 400 years ended yesterday with the conviction of four armed robbers who took part in a £1.75m heist at Heathrow Airport.

John Twomey, 62, Peter Blake, 57, Barry Hibberd, 43, and Glenn Cameron, 50, were found guilty of robbery and firearms offences after an 11-week trial which was heard by a judge sitting alone. They were each sentenced to upwards of 10 years in prison.

Twomey, who was considered the gang’s ringleader, wept as he was sentenced to 20 years and six months. His barrister told the court that, due to his age and ill-health, it was likely that Twomey would die in prison.

It was the fourth time the case had come before the court. Twomey took ill during the first and his co-accused were acquitted. One man, Darren Brockwell, pleaded guilty and then decided to turn supergrass.

He named Blake, Hibberd and Cameron as being involved in the scheme. At their first trial – Twomey’s second – the jury was unable to reach a verdict. The third trial collapsed amid allegations of jury tampering. A legal injunction means that what evidence the police had to suggest jury tampering had taken place will never be known.

But based on that evidence, which was given to the court in secret, the third trial was halted and the Court of Appeal had to decide whether the fourth trial should be heard without a jury.

It was estimated that the cost of protecting the jury members from nobbling would cost £6m but a trial by a judge alone would cost just £1.6m. And so Britain’s first juryless major trial in four centuries was given the go-ahead.

The judge was told that the four men had been involved in a “professionally planned and professionally executed” armed robbery at Menzies World Cargo at Heathrow in February 2004.

The men had thought their haul would be £10m but because one of the gang had misunderstood a document showing the number of bags of money that were to be delivered to the warehouse that evening, they instead made off with £1.75m.

During the raid 16 employees at Menzies were rounded up at gunpoint and tied up. One man, who tried to escape, was shot at twice by Blake but was not injured.

The trial was initially held at the High Court, but was moved the the Old Bailey after Blake went on the run after finding out that a relative wanted to withdraw part of his £260,000 surety. He had feared that his bail would be withdrawn and he would be remanded in custody if this happened. He handed himself in to police five days later.

During the trial, witnesses and barristers were encouraged at times to speed through evidence, skipping over areas that the judge did not feel were relevant. Other differences included that that judge was asked to rule on legal submissions which would normally be kept from the jury.

But, just like a jury, the judge Mr Justice Treacy chose to retire to consider his verdict at the end of the evidence. He was out for 12 days before delivering his verdict yesterday.

Outside court Detective Superintendent Stuart Cundy, head of the Flying Squad, said: “These are dangerous individuals who organised a complex armed robbery, to steal a substantial amount of money and expected to get away with it. They were prepared to not only carry guns, but to use them to ensure their plan succeeded. The evidence against these men was thoroughly tested in court and speaks for itself.”

Blake, of Notting Hill, west London, was jailed for 10 years. Hibberd, of Shepherds Bush, west London, got 17 years. And Cameron, of New Milton was sentenced to 15.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us