Page last updated at 12:30 GMT, Wednesday, 31 March 2010 13:30 UK

Armed gang convicted of 1.75m Heathrow raid

Heathrow robbery men found guilty without jury

A gang has been found guilty at the Old Bailey of carrying out a £1.75m armed robbery at Heathrow Airport.

John Twomey and Glen Cameron, both of Hampshire, and Peter Blake and Barry Hibberd, of west London, targeted a Menzies World Cargo warehouse in 2004.

All four men were found guilty of robbery and having a firearm with intent to commit robbery.

The case was the first crown court criminal trial to be held without a jury for more than 350 years.

Since 2005 three previous trials, lasting up to six months at a time, collapsed.

The case became the first to be tried without jury, by Mr Justice Treacy, after the Court of Appeal ruled last June there was a serious danger that a jury could be influenced.

I have in every case considered the counts individually and the position of each defendant on each count separately
Mr Justice Treacy

The prosecution described Twomey, 62, of New Milton, as the "main organiser" who began his criminal career in the 1970s.

During the night raid on 6 February 2004 the robbers wore masks, dark woollen hats and high-visibility jackets and were armed with handguns.

Delivering the verdict Mr Justice Treacy said the armed robbery was "professionally planned and professionally executed".

"I have in every case considered the counts individually and the position of each defendant on each count separately."

'Ideal recruit'

About Blake he said: "In my judgment, Blake's previous convictions for robbery, seen in the context of his continued involvement in the criminal world after his release from his last sentence for robbery, demonstrate a propensity to be involved in offences of this type."

On Twomey he said: "I am sure that he was present because of his detailed role in the planning and his acquired knowledge of the premises."

He added that Cameron, 50, was "allotted and played the role of the driver" while Hibberd was an "ideal recruit" because of his "size, physical fitness and willingness to use his physical attributes against others".

John Twomey (l) and Peter Blake

The robbery was planned with the help of insider Darren Brockwell, who admitted his part in the raid and later gave evidence in the trial.

The robbers believed they were going to steal £10m after misreading a cargo manifest, but managed to steal £1.75m, which has never been recovered.

At the time of the raid the police had mounted a surveillance operation after receiving intelligence in July 2003.

Sixteen staff members at the warehouse were tied up and threatened.

One man, David Westwood, was shot at by Blake as he tried to escape and raise the alarm.

Blake, of Notting Hill, was also found guilty of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm and possession of a firearm with intent to endanger life.

'Can't protect jurors'

The 57-year-old went on the run while the trial was taking place at the Royal Courts of Justice. He pleaded guilty to breaching his bail conditions.

Hibberd, 43, of Shepherds Bush, was found not guilty of 13 charges on unrelated firearms offences concerning a cache of weapons at a lock-up garage in Uxbridge, west London.

Twomey, Blake and Hibberd, described in court as "experienced career criminals", carried out the raid with Twomey's brother-in-law Cameron, of New Milton, and two other men who have yet to be brought to justice.

Glen Cameron (l) and Barry Hibberd
Cameron was the driver and Hibberd was recruited for his physical size

Det Supt Stuart Cundy from the Metropolitan Police said: "These are dangerous individuals who organised a complex armed robbery, to steal a substantial amount of money and expected to get away with it.

"They were prepared to not only carry guns, but to use them to ensure their plan succeeded."

But the unique jury-less trial was criticised by Shami Chakrabati, director of Liberty.

She said: "Jury trial has been an age-old method of boosting confidence and legitimacy in the criminal justice system.

"How will you persuade witnesses and victims to come forward if you can't even protect your jurors?"

All four men are expected to be sentenced later.

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