Questions for prison system after notorious armed robber Sean Bradish is sent back to prison following a string of crimes committed while he was on day release


Crime Correspondent

As one half of the notorious Bradish brothers, Sean typically celebrated one of his many successful armed robberies with a smile for the camera and a bottle of champagne in his hand. They spent their loot on cars, Caribbean holidays and drugs. But after 10 years of austerity at her Majesty’s Pleasure following the inconvenience of being caught, Bradish, one of Britain’s most prolific bank robbers, claimed to have learned the error of his ways.

In a meeting with his probation worker in March last year, he complained about his notoriety and how the constant pressure of surveillance from the Flying Squad had dogged his life. “That was then, this is now,” he said at the meeting. He said he was a reformed man.

What the probation officer did not know was that hours before, Bradish, 46, was holding a gun to the back of a bank customer’s head and threatening to kill her unless staff shoved money into his bag. It was the latest in a string of solo raids that started before he had even been released from prison.

Officers believe that he was trying to build up a nest egg to celebrate the later release from prison of his older brother, and former partner-in-crime, Vincent – to pay for the mother of all parties after a decade inside.

As Bradish was sentenced to three life terms yesterday, the prison and parole system faced criticism after it emerged that the first four of his raids were committed while he was on day release or weekend leave from an open prison in preparation for his release and rehabilitation into society.

In a parole board report, he was praised for taking the opportunity to “rebuild relations with close friends and family” and stated there was no evidence of concerning behaviour or association with criminal associates.

The reality was that he was about to embark on a brutal series of armed robberies. In the first, he grabbed £8,500 from a branch of Lloyds TSB on 12 April.

He was on day release from prison with a 10-hour limit before he was due to return. He turned up some 12 hours late at HMP Spring Hill, a category B prison in Buckinghamshire, but few questions appeared to have been asked why he was so late and was allowed to continue on the scheme, the Old Bailey heard.

The Ministry of Justice has already launched a review over the day-release scheme after a violent career criminal on day release stabbed a pensioner to death who intervened in the robbery of an elderly neighbour. Ian McLoughlin was jailed for life last year, the third time he had been sentenced to life for killing a man.

Justice Minister Jeremy Wright said: “Like everyone else, I am horrified by cases of offenders out on temporary licence who have been charged with very serious offences which is why we are reviewing the current processes as a matter of urgency. Release on licence can be an important tool in preparing offenders for their release from prison — but it must not be done at the expense of public safety.”

Bradish went on to commit three further robberies while on short-term release, hitting the same bank four times in 10 months. In one of the raids, Bradish told staff: “You fucking bastards, you’re robbing the public,” the Old Bailey heard. In another, a small child was seen within feet of Bradish as he brandished a firearm at staff.

The raids increased in regularity with two banks hit within a week of his brother being released. Sean and Vincent, 52, were jailed for life in 2002 after one of their gang turned supergrass and detailed how their prolific operations made them one the most wanted gangs in Britain. He told how successful raids turned into days of drink and drug-fuelled excess.

However, the decade in jail had stripped Bradish of his high-rolling lifestyle and on his release moved into a hostel in northwest London. He was identified as a suspect for the rash of bank raids after the Metropolitan Police’s Flying Squad searched databases for every white man arrested for such robberies since 1995.

They eventually came up with Bradish – and tied in his day release dates to some of the raids - and put him under surveillance before his final robbery two days before his brother was due to be released from prison.

Aware he might have been watched, Bradish emerged from his flat in Shoot Up Hill, Kilburn, and walked backwards to try to see if anyone was following him. He even leapt off a train just as the doors closed to try to throw police off the scent before he stole more than £13,000 in one of his swift raids.

He fled in his girlfriend’s Mercedes, then changed to a minicab which was stopped by armed police who discovered the money in the car. He was sentenced yesterday to three life sentences after admitting six robberies and one attempted robbery over 11 months.

Detective Sergeant Ben Kennedy said: “Bradish’s offending escalated over a period of 11 months, with him becoming more brazen as time went on. Bradish showed blatant disregard for the restrictions imposed on him and had he not been caught when he did I have no doubt he would have carried on offending.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
Life and Style
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions