Five jailed for Securitas raid

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The Independent Online

Five men were jailed for a total of at least 70 years yesterday after being convicted of kidnapping and robbery in Britain's biggest cash heist, a £53m raid on a cash depot.

The robbers, some dressed as policemen and most wearing disguises created by a make-up artist, snatched the record haul after getting past tight security by kidnapping the depot's manager, his wife and son at gunpoint.

The judge called the crime "organised banditry".

They were helped by "inside man" Ermir Hysenaj, who not only provided details of the building's interior layout and security protocols, but also secretly filmed it using a tiny camera hidden on his belt.

Despite the elaborate planning, the gang was rounded up by police within days of the February 2006 raid at the Securitas Depot in Tonbridge, Kent, in south eastern England, after detectives received a tip-off.

The judge, Justice David Herbert Penry-Davey, said the raid had been meticulously prepared and ruthlessly executed so the gang could seize "unimaginable quantities of cash".

Police recovered 21 million pounds, but the remainder is missing.

"From an early stage the plot included the kidnapping and holding hostage of (depot manager) Colin Dixon, his wife and young child."

As he handed down the sentences, Penry-Davey said the robbery had left lasting consequences on Dixon's family and the depot staff.

"It is unsurprising that they were terrified, that some of them continue to suffer long-term effects, some of a life-changing nature," he said

Four members of the gang, Stuart Royle, 49 - who refused to come to court - Jetmir Bucpapa, 26, Lea Rusha, 35, and Roger Coutts, 30, were each sentenced to a minimum of 15 years' jail.

Hysenaj, 28, will serve a minimum of 10 years.

All were convicted at the Old Bailey criminal court on Monday of conspiracy to kidnap, conspiracy to rob and conspiracy to possess firearms.

The men had denied all charges but prosecutors said forensic discoveries and detailed phone records linked them to the crime.

The most damning evidence came from make-up artist and hairdresser Michelle Hogg, 33, who had applied the men's disguises two days before the plot during a 24-hour make-up session.

Hogg, who is now in a witness protection scheme, had faced the same charges but testified against the others after the prosecution agreed to drop its case against her half way through the trial.

She revealed how she had made false noses, chins, beards, moustaches and bald caps for a number of the gang members, describing how she had even used her bra straps and baby bottle teats as part of the disguises.

Two defendants, John Fowler, 59, and Keith Borer, 54, were cleared of involvement in the robbery.