23rd February 2006, 11:56 AM
LONDON : An armed gang disguised as police stole more than 25 million pounds (44 million dollars, 37 million euros) from a security depot after abducting its manager and his family, the Bank of England said Wednesday.
Police said the gang were highly sophisticated and had planned the raid in detail, while the hostages were subjected to a "terrifying ordeal".
There were unconfirmed reports that the final figure could be up to 40 million pounds, which would make it the biggest heist in British history.
The manager of the Securitas main cash depot in Tonbridge, south of London, was pulled over while driving on Tuesday evening by what he believed was an unmarked police car, Kent Police said.
They said a man wearing a high visibility jacket and a police-style hat got out of the vehicle, which had blue lights on it.
The manager, believing they were genuine police officers, got into their car, was handcuffed, threatened at gunpoint and told to cooperate or his family would be hurt.
Two other robbers disguised as police abducted his wife and son from their home, telling them the manager had been involved in an accident.
Six men, some armed with handguns, then threatened and tied up around 15 staff at the depot of Securitas, a company providing security guards, alarm systems, and cash transportation services.
The gang loaded the stolen money into a white lorry before driving off in the early hours of Wednesday morning.
The shocked but uninjured staff activated an alarm around an hour after the robbery. The manager, his wife and son were also unhurt.
"They have all coped extremely well in the circumstances," said Detective Superintendent Paul Gladstone of Kent Police.
"They were threatened with extreme violence by the gang and underwent a terrifying ordeal.
"This gang were highly sophisticated and organised. They are not amateurs.
"This was a clearly a robbery that was planned in detail over time -- someone must have information that will help us."
The Daily Mail newspaper said Thursday that closed-circuit television footage from the Channel Tunnel in Kent was being checked to see if the gang fled to France.
A former senior Kent Police officer, who did not want to be named, told newspapers that the gang might have had no idea they would net so much cash and bitten off more than they can chew.
"It will very quickly become apparent to the gang that it is so much it will cause them problems," he said.
"The case will be so high profile that it will be impossible for them to spend any of the money."
The Bank of England said that its governor had asked Wednesday for a review of the security arrangements for the storage of banknotes.
"There is no cost at all to the Bank (of England) or the taxpayer" resulting from the heist, said a spokeswoman for the central bank after the robbery.
"We have already been reimbursed by Securitas for the initial estimate of 25 million and any further sum will be reimbursed to the Bank as soon as the amount is known," she said.
The Guardian newspaper said Thursday it was thought that the gang may have been aware that February is the month when the greatest amount of money is taken out of circulation and held briefly in storage.
A raid at the Northern Bank's Belfast headquarters in December 2004 netted 26.5 million pounds, making it the biggest cash theft in British and Irish history at that time.
The amount stolen in the Tonbridge robbery is expected to dwarf that amount.
- AFP /ct
Sounds like great material for another movie. Wonder how are they gonna spend all that money they took? Buy new cameras? hahaha