Sat, Feb 25, 2006 - Page 6 News List

Two caught after daring UK robbery

ARMED RAID Police held a man and a woman in connection with the heist and offered a reward of £2 million for information on the gang's whereabouts

AFP , LONDON

British police hunting a gang of armed robbers who stole up to a record ?50 million (US$87 million) from a security depot arrested two people suspected of involvement in the heist on Thursday.

Police said a 29-year-old man and a 31-year-old woman were arrested in connection with Tues-day's armed raid on the Securitas main cash depot in Tonbridge, southeast England.

The pair were being held and questioned in separate locations in Kent, the region where the crime, thought to be Britain's biggest robbery, occurred, police said.

Adrian Leppard, assistant chief constable of Kent police, said the arrests "were significant and directly related to the investigation" into the raid that netted at least ?20 million (US$35 million).

However, Leppard told reporters in Maidstone, Kent, that the exact amount would not be known until forensic work was complete, warning that "it could be as high as ?40 million, or even ?50 million."

Leppard said more than 100 police officers were hunting the gang of "callous" armed robbers and that an unprecedented ?2 million reward was being offered for information as to their whereabouts or identities.

All British ports and airports have been put on alert for anyone attempting to leave the country with large sums of cash, while CCTV images of the gang's white delivery lorry was released to help track those responsible down.

"We know this for a fact -- this is organized crime at its top level. It was planned and executed with military precision," he added.

He said Kent police had the manpower, resources and wherewithal to find the robbers, vowing: "There's no doubt in my mind that we will catch these people and convict them."

The raid, probably the result of months of extensive reconnaissance work, according to Leppard, saw the depot manager and his wife and eight-year-old son abducted separately and 15 workers held at gunpoint.

They were later identified by the local Press Association news agency as Colin Dixon, 51, his wife Lynn, 45, and their son, Craig.

The kidnappers, who forced Dixon to help them gain access to the cash, were disguised as police officers while the others, possibly up to six, were said to be masked and wearing boiler suits.

He could not say whether the gang may have fled via the Channel Tunnel 80km away. The Daily Mail newspaper on Thursday said CCTV footage was being checked to determine if they escaped to France.

Leppard said they were in touch with police in Belfast, where ?26.5 million was stolen in a raid at Northern Bank's headquarters, making it the biggest cash theft in British or Irish history.

Foreign police, Scotland Yard, plus Britain's National Crime Squad and National Criminal Intelligence Service, which deal with serious and organized crime, have also been informed.

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