'Skull Cracker' Michael Wheatley admits committing armed raid while on the run

The 55-year-old, who was serving a life sentence when he escaped from an open prison, pleaded guilty to the building society robbery via video link

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The Independent Online

Michael Wheatley, the serial armed robber dubbed the Skull Cracker, has admitted carrying out a raid on a building society while on the run from an open prison earlier this month.

Wheatley, who gained his nickname for pistol-whipping his victims during robberies, was serving a life sentence at category D HMP Standford Hill on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, when he was granted day release and failed to return on 3 May.

The 55-year-old was arrested in Tower Hamlets, east London, after raiding the Chelsea Building Society in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, of £18,350 on 7 May.

Appearing via video link from HMP Belmarsh at Guildford Crown Court, Wheatley pleaded guilty to robbery, possession of a firearm, or imitation firearm, while committing an offence and being unlawfully at large.

Lionel Blackman, defending, asked Judge Christopher Critchlow, the Recorder of Guildford, to pass sentence on Thursday once CCTV footage of the robbery has been obtained.

Wheatley’s alleged accomplice, Kevin Perry, 53, of West India Dock Road, east London, also appeared via video link from HMP Highpoint charged with assisting an offender, perverting the course of justice and handling stolen goods.

Speaking only to confirm his name, Perry did not enter any pleas and was remanded in custody until 18 July.

Additional reporting by Press Association