Gang guilty of stealing £500,000 in armed raids on security vans

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The Independent Online

A gang of armed robbers who stole £500,000 in raids on security vans were convicted yesterday, after their 18-month crime spree ended with the ringleader and an accomplice being shot dead by police marksmen.

Terence Wallace, Adrian Johnson, Leroy Wilkinson and Victor Iniodu, from south London, were part of a mob that carried out 21 separate robberies at a string of locations across the south of England between April and September 2007.

The gang's run of successful raids ended in a hail of bullets in the village of Chandlers Ford in Hampshire, after police guessed their next move and shot ringleader Mark Nunes dead after he held a gun to the head of a security guard. His accomplice, Andrew Markland, was also killed. Three other gang members, Leroy Hall, Leon McKenzie and Brian Henry, plead guilty prior to the trial. All are due to be sentenced on 31 October.

During the seven-week trial at Kingston Crown Court, the jury heard that Nunes, a convicted armed robber, planned the raids down to the last detail. Many of the gang members he recruited were criminals known to the Metropolitan Police's Flying Squad, prompting the gang's decision to operate outside London.

Nunes researched escape routes and pinpointed locations where the security vehicles could be changed over, so his mob could attack the guards as they transferred money into the banks.

Some of the raids were carried out with guns, and the robbers did not hesitate to use violence against the guards if they refused to hand over their cashboxes. The gang struck at some locations twice, and one guard in Colchester was targeted on two separate occasions while making deliveries.

Police eventually traced Nunes using mobile phone records, placing him and his gang under surveillance. On the morning of 13 September last year, they had identified Chandlers Ford as the gang's next intended target, and deployed officers to lie in wait.

As an officer filmed the security van pulling up from a vantage point across the road close to a branch of HSBC, Nunes, 35, ran up to the guard pointing a gun at his head. Within seconds a police marksman shot him dead. When his friend Markland, 36, tried to pick up the gun, he too was shot dead.

Wallace was the getaway driver, while Johnson also later carried out another raid in Nunes' memory, for which he was also convicted.

Wilkinson was recruited last year when he left prison because of his history of robberies on post offices and security vans, while Iniodu was involved in reconnaissance trips.

Michael Player, 54, one of the security guards attacked by the gang at Chandlers Ford, said: "It's the first time I have ever looked down the barrel of a gun. I was wondering if I would be able to move if I heard a click. Our families were in a total mess."

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