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Monday, 7 January, 2002, 14:36 GMT
Dome raid suspect tells of 'lax security'
Millennium Dome
Five men are accused of plotting the diamond heist
A member of the gang accused of plotting to steal diamonds worth 200m from the Millennium Dome has told a jury he could not believe how lax security was at the site.

William Cockran, 49, from Catford, south east London, told the Old Bailey he had visited the tourist attraction with co-accused Raymond Betson before the planned heist.

At first I thought it was pie in the sky

William Cockran

"I could not believe security could be so bad," Mr Cockran told the court. "I had been there a couple of times and there was no-one there at all."

Mr Cockran, Mr Betson and three other men are alleged to have plotted to snatch the gems from the De Beers Millennium Diamond Exhibition in November 2000.

The JCB used in the raid
A JCB was smashed through the wall of the Dome

Giving evidence at the trial on Monday, Mr Cockran said he had laughed when he was first asked to join the plan by his old friend Mr Betson, 39, of Chatham, Kent.

"At first I thought it was pie in the sky," said Mr Cockran.

"He gave me a ring and said he had a proposition.

"I was a bit taken aback. I laughed and thought he was joking. I did not know there were any diamonds in there, but when he told me, I was taken aback."

Mr Cockran, who said he was promised 100,000 for the job, said he got his instructions from Mr Betson and a man with "a Vinnie Jones build" he knew only as Tony.

Robbery denied

It is also alleged that Mr Betson told him that his brother-in-law, police officer Michael Waring, was in on the plan.

"He said he had inside help through Pc Michael Waring," Mr Cockran told the court.

The police officer, who worked at the Dome, was called as a prosecution witness last week, when he "totally denied" defence suggestions that he was part of the plan and had offered to act in a criminal way by providing information on security.

We thought we could be double-crossed - we were double-crossed

William Cockran

Mr Cockran said he would not have contemplated going armed to the raid because armed robbery carried a 20-year prison sentence.

But he admitted he had worn body armour for a proposed meeting with Tony to exchange the diamonds for cash at the Mayflower, Rotherhithe, south London, because he feared he could be shot.

"We never trusted them. They might shoot us. We thought we could be double-crossed - we were double-crossed," he said.

Mr Cockran and Mr Betson, along with Aldo Ciarrocchi, 31, of Balaclava Road, Bermondsey, south east London, and Robert Adams, 57, of no fixed address, all deny conspiracy to rob but admit conspiring to steal.

Kevin Meredith, 34, of Auckland Drive, Brighton, East Sussex, denies both charges.

It is alleged the gang intended to use an earthmover to smash their way into the Dome before escaping across the River Thames by speedboat.

The trial continues.

The BBC's Stephen Cape
reports from the Old Bailey
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