Page last updated at 17:51 GMT, Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Five jailed for 53m cash robbery

Clockwise from top left, Lea Rusha, Stuart Royle, Emir Hysenaj, Jetmir Bucpapa and Roger Coutts.

Five men found guilty of being involved in the 53m raid on the Securitas depot in Kent have been given minimum jail terms of between 10 and 15 years.

During the raid in Tonbridge in 2006, depot manager Colin Dixon and his family were kidnapped at gunpoint by men posing as police officers.

Since the raid police have recovered 21m of the stolen cash but the remaining 32m is still missing.

The five were convicted on kidnap, robbery and firearms charges.

Those ordered to serve a minimum of 15 years were: Stuart Royle, 49, of Allen Street, Maidstone, Kent; Lea Rusha, 35, of Lambersart Close, Southborough, Kent; Jetmir Bucpapa, 26, of Hadlow Road, Tonbridge; and garage owner Roger Coutts, 30, of The Green, Welling, south-east London.

All four were given indeterminate sentences.

'Organised banditry'

Emir Hysenaj, aged 28, of New Road, Crowborough, East Sussex, who worked at the depot, was handed a 20-year term and was told he would serve a minimum of 10 years.

Trial judge Mr Justice Penry-Davey recommended Bucpapa, a failed asylum seeker, and Hysenaj, whose licence to remain in the UK expired last year, be deported at the end of their jail terms. Both are Albanian nationals.

He told the gang: "This was organised banditry for uniquely high stakes."

CCTV image from the raid
Those inside (the depot) were violently threatened and trussed up before being locked into cages and abandoned
Mr Justice Penry-Davey

The judge added the raid was "meticulously prepared" and "ruthlessly executed".

He said: "From an early stage the plot included the kidnapping and holding hostage of Colin Dixon, his wife and young child.

"You required somebody who was able, under threat of lethal violence to himself, his wife and young child, to get access to that depot and unimaginable quantities of cash.

"Once you were inside, heavily disguised and heavily armed, all those inside going about their lawful business were violently threatened and trussed up before being locked into cages and abandoned."

And he said that "confronted by armed men", it was not surprising the family and depot workers were "terrified", with some suffering long-term and life-changing effects.

"The Dixons lost their home, their work and their friends, and because of your conduct are having to start their lives again," the judge added.

He told the gang that "mission accomplished", they "fled into the night", with their haul of cash limited only by the vehicles they used.

'Unique' conspiracy

After the sentencing, Kent Police Chief Constable Mike Fuller said the jail terms reflected the severity of a crime which put a family "in fear of their lives and struck terror in the hearts of staff" working at the depot.

He added: "Our highest priority remains to ensure that no one profits from the proceeds of this robbery."

Graeme Wilson, representing Rusha, had said it was a "unique" conspiracy unlikely ever to be repeated, with nobody seriously harmed, no firearm discharged, and no person "deliberately beaten and subjected to physical violence".

Royle, who represented himself during the trial after sacking his legal team, decided not to attend court for sentencing.

Two other men - John Fowler, 59, of Staplehurst, and Keith Borer, 54, both from Maidstone, Kent - were cleared of involvement in the robbery in a trial which lasted seven months.

The men had all denied conspiracy to kidnap, conspiracy to rob and conspiracy to possess firearms.

The gang wore prosthetic disguises, normally used by actors, which were made by hairdresser Michelle Hogg.

She was initially charged by police but later agreed to become a prosecution witness.

Police said there was evidence of the robbery being planned as far back as July 2005.

CCTV cameras captured armed robbers holding the Dixon family and 14 members of the depot staff hostage as they loaded cash into the back of a 7.5-tonne lorry.

Cash storage cages were then used to imprison the hostages.

The gang left behind 153m because no more could be fitted into their lorry.

A large quantity of the missing money is thought to be in northern Cyprus and Morocco, in cash and assets.

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