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Last Updated: Friday, 16 September 2005, 21:52 GMT 22:52 UK
Heathrow bullion robbers jailed
CCTV footage from the Met Police

Eight robbers who tried to steal 33m in gold, cash and gems at Heathrow Airport have been jailed for up to 13 years at Kingston Crown Court.

The men, from Berkshire and London, smashed into the Swissport warehouse in a van before threatening staff with batons and hockey sticks in May 2004.

But more than 100 armed police officers were lying in wait to arrest the gang after several weeks of surveillance.

The men got sentences of between six years and nine months, and 13 years.

The attempted robbery would have been one of the biggest in British criminal history.

'Audacious conspiracy'

Jailing the men, Judge Edward Southwell labelled the robbery a "glorified ram raid" that was "motivated by greed".

He said it was an "audacious, well-planned and serious conspiracy" but added that it was "far from sophisticated".

Clockwise from top left: Derek Sheehan; Martin Nolan; Chris Smith; Stephen Nolan
Pictured above (clockwise from top left):
Derek Sheehan
"Foot soldier" - seven-and-a-half years
Martin Nolan
Main organiser - 13 years
Christopher Smith
One of the leaders - eight years
Steven Nolan
"Foot soldier" - eight years for robbery, six months for vehicle-taking

The robbers had managed to load five boxes of gold into the van before being arrested - but the judge said he doubted the van had the capacity to hold the full bullion haul.

The gold, cash and diamonds were initially thought to be worth 80m, but this figure was later revised to 33m.

The gang were able to time their raid to coincide with the arrival of a 15m haul of gold bullion because they had been tipped off by an "insider", police said.

They also targeted an 18m stash of diamonds and foreign currency in a nearby strong-room.

Philip Hillier, 37, from Stanwell, south west London, stood trial accused of being the inside man but was acquitted. Another man accused of helping to plot to robbery was also cleared by a jury earlier in the year.

Brothers Steven and Martin Nolan, 24 and 30, of Berkshire, initially escaped from police. Martin Nolan - who was in a car in the area acting as lookout - fled the scene.

Steven Nolan hijacked a nearby lorry and forced the driver to take him to his home in Wraysbury, Berks, where he was later arrested.

Ninth robber

The officer in the case, Det Supt Barry Phillips, said the hijack had "devastated" the driver's family, but he hoped the convictions had brought "closure".

Steven Nolan admitted one charge of conspiracy to rob and another of aggravated vehicle taking and was jailed for eight and a half years.

Clockwise from top left: Anthony Charles; James Fox; Alan Larmont; John Davis
Pictured above (clockwise from top left):
Anthony Charles
Six years and nine months
James Fox
One of the leaders - eight years
Alan Larmont
"Foot soldier" - seven-and-a-half years
John Davis
"Foot soldier" - seven-and-a-half years
Martin Nolan, described in court as one of the main plotters, evaded capture for two months and later denied involvement in the robbery. He was found guilty after a trial and given a 13-year sentence.

James Fox, 31, of Ascot, and Christopher Smith, 29, of Eton Wick, were the most senior organisers of the plot after Martin Nolan.

The judge sentenced both men to eight years in prison.

Alan Larmont, 31, of Slough, John Davis, 22, of Datchet, Anthony Charles, 36, and Derek Sheehan, 33, both of west London, were described as "foot soldiers".

Larmont, Davis and Sheehan were each jailed for seven and a half years. Charles was given credit for an early guilty plea and jailed for six years and nine months.

A ninth robber fled from the scene and is still being hunted by detectives.

The investigation, Operation Cartwright, was part of a wider operation called Grafton, designed to tackle high-value crime in and around Heathrow Airport.

In pictures: Heathrow heist foiled
17 May 04 |  In Pictures

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