Page last updated at 13:13 GMT, Monday, 28 January 2008

Securitas raid: The key locations

By Stuart Richards
BBC News, Kent

Farm in Staplehurst, Kent
The robbers planned kidnappings to help them carry out the raid
On the evening of 21 February 2006, a gang of robbers armed themselves with guns and began what turned out to be Britain's biggest ever cash robbery.

The scale of the raid on the Securitas depot in Tonbridge, Kent, and the devastating impact on those who became victims, unfolded over the following days, weeks and months.

But as the investigation widened across Kent and south-east London, members of the public going about their everyday lives were also caught up in the intense police and media activity.

Stolen money was found in a private lock-up garage, a car yard, and a van left in the grounds of a hotel, while vehicles used by the robbers were recovered from pub car parks and rural lanes.

BBC News returned to three of the key robbery locations to find out what locals remembered about the robbery.

THE FAMILY HOME

Speak to any of the former neighbours of the Dixon family in their quiet residential street in Herne Bay, Kent, and you hear the same words used to describe the family - nice, normal, happy.

But in February 2006, that "normal" English family found themselves brutally thrust into a terrifying situation.

Men posing as police officers turned up at Securitas cash depot manager Colin Dixon's house and told his wife he had been involved in an accident.

Fearing for her husband, Lynn Dixon grabbed their young child and left her home in the company of those she believed to be upholders of the law.

CCTV image from inside the Securitas depot
Colin Dixon was kidnapped by men posing as police officers
But the pair, like Mr Dixon himself, had been duped by kidnappers intent on carrying out a major robbery.

Former neighbour Jim Brown said: "I don't know what they went through but it must have been terrible. I felt very much for them."

Residents of Hadleigh Gardens recalled cars coming and going for a child's birthday party in another house on the night the Dixons were kidnapped.

Justine Baker said: "It's almost as though they [the kidnappers] knew that was going to be happening as well, but I don't know how they would have known."

And Mr Brown added: "I don't think anybody had any idea [what had happened], but if the party hadn't been going on that night things might have been a bit different because people might have taken a bit more notice."

Ms Baker said she never saw the Dixons again because they moved away from the area.

"There were mums at the school who said that the child had been back to see friends and say goodbye. It's sad to hear about it."

THE ISOLATED FARM

Almost a week after the robbers carried out the 53m raid, a major breakthrough was made as police officers swarmed around remote farmland and buildings near Staplehurst, in Kent.

The Dixon family had told detectives they were held captive at a farm before being taken to the Securitas depot.

Andrew Hutchison
I've never seen quite so many laptops in our pub
Andrew Hutchison
Elderden Farm, in Chart Hill Road just to the north of Staplehurst, sits in an isolated location with only a few other farmhouses, an industrial unit and a pub, the Lord Raglan, nearby.

Police activity at the farm was hidden from all except by aerial view, and pub landlord Andrew Hutchison said it was the subsequent media circus that had the most impact.

"Suddenly one morning the phones started ringing and [television] satellite vans started appearing up the road. I've never seen quite so many laptops in our pub before."

Hairdresser Linda Tucker said the goings-on at Elderden Farm became the focus of conversations, gossip and speculation in the centre of Staplehurst village.

"I think we were all stunned and shocked to learn that something you hear about on the news was suddenly happening on our doorstep.

"There were lots of jokes going around as well as all the disbelief - everybody asking you if you were looking for black sacks at the bottom of your garden."

THE CASH DEPOT

Tonbridge is an historic market town in west Kent with a population of roughly 35,000.

An 11th Century castle stands out on the banks of the River Medway, but to the east sits a sprawling industrial estate which is much like any other town's save for one reason.

The metal railings and CCTV cameras that surround an otherwise nondescript brown building on Vale Road are the only clue that what goes on inside requires a high level of security.

The Securitas cash depot's neighbours are a car repair centre and a small office building.

Paul Brownridge
I think not a lot of people knew what that building was
Paul Brownridge
A raised railway line lies opposite the electronic entrance gate, with residential areas hidden from view the other side.

But the building and its surroundings became the focus of police and media attention when the armed robbers forced one of their kidnap victims to let them inside.

It was more than 24 hours later when people who lived and worked nearby discovered that a major crime had taken place on their doorstep.

Financial controller Paul Brownridge, whose office window overlooks the depot car park and loading bay, said: "As I turned up for work I saw what you could only describe as a media scrum, loads of TV vans outside, and it was obvious something had happened.

"This is a fairly quiet street on every other day of the year.

"I think not a lot of people knew what that building was - I was aware it was a cash facility, but perhaps not to the extent of the money that was being held."

In fact more than 200m was stored inside, of which the robbers stole only a quarter.



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