LONDON - A gang of robbers impersonating police officers tied up employees at a southern England security company and stole the equivalent of $43.5 million, the Bank of England said Wednesday in disclosing one of the largest bank heists in British history.
The money, about 25 million pounds in bank notes, was stolen overnight from a cash center at Tonbridge in Kent county, a bank spokesman said on condition of anonymity, in accordance with bank policy.
No one was injured in the robbery.
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Citing government sources, The Times of London reported that the Bank of England fears the total amount stolen could be up to $69.7 million, or 40 million pounds. That would dwarf the $45.3 million stolen from the Northern Bank in Belfast last December. The IRA is suspected in that robbery.
The heist at Securitas Cash Management Ltd. began when some of the thieves, dressed as police officers, stopped the firm’s manager as he drove home. The manager got into their car, which he believed to be a police vehicle, and was handcuffed by the robbers, authorities said.
Ruse of an accident
At the same time, another team of thieves went to the manager’s house, saying he had been in an accident. The men persuaded his wife and young son to leave the home and go with them.
The first team, with the manager in the car, met up with a white van and another group of thieves. The manager was placed in the van, which then headed toward the Tonbridge depot, police said.
The manager allegedly was told to cooperate or his family would be hurt.
Some of the robbers then changed clothes, donned balaclavas to cover their faces and brandished handguns before entering the security company and tying up 15 staff members on duty, police said. The thieves were inside the building for more than an hour.
Detective Superintendent Paul Gladstone said he believed the robbery was planned down to the last detail.