Eight jailed over foiled Heathrow raid

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The Independent Online

The gang, which was foiled by police, attempted to raid the Swissport cargo warehouse in May last year in what could have been one of Britain's biggest robberies.

Police believe that had the robbers succeeded they could have made off with £33 million in gold bars, foreign currency and diamonds.

Jailing the eight today at Kingston Crown Court, Judge Edward Southwell told the gang that they had been playing for "high stakes" and were motivated purely by greed.

On May 17 last year workers at the warehouse had just unloaded a consignment of Peruvian gold bars which arrived on a KLM flight that morning when the gang struck.

Eight men in black wearing balaclavas leapt out of a white van which had smashed through the shutters of the loading bay where the gold was sitting, some wielding hockey sticks and a baton.

But unknown to them, police were lying in wait and rounded up six men, who were among those sentenced today.

Judge Edward Southwell told the court he accepted that most of the members of the gang had been "foot soldiers" but added: "It is worth observing nonetheless that this offence could not have been committed without foot soldiers. They were motivated by greed and they played their part willingly."

Three men were not arrested that morning. They included 30-year-old Martin Nolan, of Horton near Heathrow, who, the judge accepted, was one of the organisers of the conspiracy.

Nolan had been outside the compound at the time of the raid, monitoring police activity, and fled to the East Midlands where he was arrested in July last year.

Nolan was jailed for 13 years today.

His younger brother Steven, 24, of Wraysbury, near Heathrow, commandeered a nearby lorry, taking its driver on a spine-chilling ride across the surrounding roads, the M25 and a country lane, smashing through at least two gates, hitting other vehicles and eventually crashing to a stop after driving through a field of livestock.

Steven Nolan was arrested an hour after he arrived back at his own home, close to where he had abandoned the vehicle.

Today he was jailed for eight years for his part in the conspiracy and a consecutive six months for aggravated vehicle-taking.

A ninth man fled on foot and has never been tracked down.

Above those described in court today as "foot soldiers" sat two men - Christopher Smith, 29, of Eton Wick, Berkshire, and 31-year-old James Fox of Ascot, Berkshire.

The judge said he accepted that Fox and Smith were closer to Martin Nolan than the other conspirators, illustrated by the fact that each had been given so-called "dirty phones" - a mobile phone with no registered user kept for the purposes of the plot.

Fox and Smith were both jailed for eight years.

Of those remaining, 22-year-old John Davis of Datchet, Berkshire, 33-year-old Derek Sheehan of Hammersmith, west London, and 31-year-old Alan Larmont of Langley, near Slough, were each jailed for seven and a half years.

The driver of the van, 36-year-old Anthony Charles, formerly of Shepherds Bush, west London, was jailed for six years and nine months as he had entered a guilty plea earlier than the others.

Martin Nolan denied the charge of conspiracy to rob Swissport but was found guilty by a jury at Kingston Crown Court earlier this year.

Steven Nolan, Larmont, Charles, Sheehan, Smith, Fox and Davis all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob and Steven Nolan also admitted aggravated vehicle-taking.