Police find lorry used to transport the stolen millions

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The Independent Online

The lorry used to transport £53m in Britain's biggest robbery is believed to have been found by police in a significant breakthrough in the case.

Forensic specialists were examining a white 7.5 ton Renault Midlum truck last night that was discovered in Kent. A similar lorry was filmed on surveillance cameras being driven out of the Securitas cash depot in Tonbridge, Kent, loaded with cash, on Wednesday last week.

Police hunting the six-man robbery gang were also searching a farm in Kent yesterday for traces of the stolen cash. Dozens of officers and sniffer dogs examined outbuildings, a well and fields at Elderden Farm near Maidstone.

The discovery of the lorry suspected to have been used to transport the stolen cash was the most crucial piece of missing evidence for the police. Hours after the vehicle left the warehouse in Tonbridge last Wednesday morning it stopped at fields at the top of Detling Hill near Maidstone and dumped 14 metal cages used to carry the huge quantity of new and used banknotes.

Kent Police are hoping that examination of the lorry will yield clues to the identity of the robbers. Detectives have continued to carry out raids in Kent and yesterday arrested a woman in connection with the inquiry. Four men are being questioned, while a further seven suspects have been arrested and released on bail.

Road checks were carried out at key locations across Kent. Kent's assistant chief constable, Adrian Leppard, said: "We hope to jog people's memories. Did they see anything last week ­ and did the gang test their plan and the route they used in the weeks running up to the robbery?"

Dozens of vehicles and officers were sent to Elderden Farm in Chart Hill Lane, Staplehurst. Police divers examined a well and three vehicles were removed. Teams of black-clad officers searched fields as the owner of the premises was named as John Fowler, 60, a former car dealer who lives at the farm with his wife Linda and three children. The Sun reported that he was jailed for nine months in 1992 for credit card fraud. Unconfirmed reports said detectives were investigating the possibility that the robbers took depot manager Colin Dixon and his kidnapped wife and son to the farm.

Earlier, detectives released photographs of a Volvo similar to the one used by the robbers, who dressed as policemen to kidnap Mr Dixon, on the A249 near Stockbury. The gang held Mr Dixon, 51, and his wife, Lynn, 45, and their nine-year-old son, Craig, hostage. They were then left tied up with 14 other workers as the robbers fled with £53,116,760. A white Transit van was later found abandoned in the car park of the Ashford International Hotel. It contained £1.3m in cash.

The Securitas staff caught up in the raid described their ordeal as " brutal, horrific and traumatic". Paul Fullicks, a manager, said the staff, who had been subjected to high levels of duress and intimidation, shared Mr Dixon's anger that his wife and son had been held.