Day a daring heist brought city to standstill

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The recent heist at the Hatton Garden Safety Deposit Bank in London is like something from a Hollywood script.

Millions of pounds of jewellery stolen by villains who have carefully planned the job and successfully bypassed alarms and modern security systems. There also appears to be the strong possibility that some of the valuable items they have taken will never be reported as stolen by the victims, as they were already ill-gotten gains.

The Flying Squad detectives will be earning plenty of overtime trying to crack the case and I’ll bet it’s a really interesting enquiry to investigate. Whilst I’ve worked on an array of high profile cases, there are some Lancashire crimes I regret not having had the opportunity to work on. Towards the top of that list would be the robbery at the Preston NatWest in 1988. At the time, the crime made national headlines with £500,000 stolen, including two and a half hundredweight of coins. The bank manager was kidnapped after work one evening and driven to Morecambe, where the ruthless armed criminals then took his wife and daughter hostage.

After first being held at home, they were then taken, bound and gagged in the boots of cars to some disused offices on Fishergate.

When staff arrived at the bank the next morning, they were also taken hostage, whilst the gang stole the money from the vault.

It was a well-planned crime and the villains had even dug up the bollards outside Preston railway station to help them with their getaway. I have just watched the 1988 Crimewatch programme that shows the armed siege in Preston and appeals for witnesses to this audacious crime.

It really was fantastic detective work which solved the case, at a time when there was no DNA, CCTV or telephone evidence available to the team. One of the criminals had a speech impediment and had difficulty pronouncing V and R. If I remember correctly, one of the key pieces of evidence at the trial was the bank manager’s family identifying this offender from a selection of audio tape recordings. The first time such a procedure had been used in the UK courts.

If the Metropolitan Police need any help solving the Hatton Garden crime, then perhaps they should consider seeking advice from a few elderly ex-Lancashire detectives, who can show them how it used to be done.