Page last updated at 18:38 GMT, Tuesday, 1 June 2010 19:38 UK

'Flamboyant' life of raid convict Lee Murray

Lee Murray is believed to be Stopwatch
Lee Murray is believed to have been the robber known as "Stopwatch"

Cage-fighter Lee Murray has been jailed for 10 years in Morocco for his part in the £53m Securitas robbery in Kent in February 2006.

Last year his best friend Paul Allen was jailed in the UK for 18 years for his role in the crime, which was Britain's biggest robbery, and five other men have been convicted and jailed.

Not only did Kent Police and prosecutor Sir John Nutting QC point to Murray as the mastermind of the £53m raid, but most of the defendants also sought to shift the blame on him.

At the first trial, which ended in January 2008, Murray could not be named because the police and Crown Prosecution Service still hoped to extradite him to stand trial.

But by the time of the second trial in 2009, of Allen and co-defendant Michael Demetris - who has since been acquitted - they accepted Murray was unlikely to be extradited from Morocco and lifted reporting restrictions preventing his identification.

The name of the handsome vain 30-year-old cage-fighter cropped up throughout both trials.

LEE MURRAY TIMELINE
Sep 1979 - born in Plumstead, south-east London
Feb 2006 - takes part in Securitas robbery in Tonbridge, Kent
Jun 2006 - arrested in Rabat, Morocco
Oct 2009 - as the convictions of six other men concludes in the UK, Murray remains in custody pending possible trial in Morocco
June 2010 - convicted and jailed in Morocco

Roger Coutts, later jailed for at least 15 years for his part in the robbery, told the Old Bailey: "Lee Murray has security firms, he runs doormen, he has flash cars and he is a well known drug dealer, everyone knows it. He's a gangster."

David Jeremy QC, for the Crown, said: "He sounds quite a flamboyant figure, a bit of an extrovert, with his yellow Ferrari and page-three girls".

Born in south-east London, Murray was brought up on a tough estate in Plumstead and carved out a reputation as a youth who could "look after himself".

His father was a stern disciplinarian. Allen told the trial: "He was an absolute lunatic of a man. He used to beat the living daylights out of Lee as a child."

Nearly died

Hardened by his tough childhood, Murray took up the extreme martial art of cage-fighting, which was brought to Britain in the 1990s.

His first fight was in 1999 - against Alex Reid, who is now married to model Katie Price - and his reputation in Britain's Cage Rage tournament was boosted in 2002 when he knocked out world champion Tito Ortiz outside a London nightclub, the court heard.

In 2004 he challenged the American Jorge Rivera at the Ultimate Fighting Championship 46 tournament in Las Vegas.

Murray returned victorious and in November 2004 was matched against Brazil's Anderson Silva, who has since gone on to be one of the world's best pound-for-pound cage-fighters. Murray went the distance but lost.

However soon afterwards Murray was convicted of committing grievous bodily harm in a road rage attack.

Lauren Pope
Murray was stabbed in 2005 at a party for glamour model Lauren Pope

This led to a refusal by the US authorities to give him a visa, which prevented him fighting in America and making the breakthrough to the big-money fights.

Murray was also arrested and questioned twice in connection with the murder of Sabina Rizvi, 25, shot dead in Bexleyheath, Kent, in March 2003 after her boyfriend was involved in a row over a car.

One man, Paul Asbury, was later jailed for life for the murder, but police believe others were involved and confirmed Murray had been a suspect.

Murray nearly died following violence on 29 September 2005 outside London's trendy Funky Buddha nightclub, the court heard.

The club had been hosting the 21st birthday party of glamour model Lauren Pope and outside it Murray was stabbed through the heart during a 15-man brawl.

He needed open-heart surgery and 30 pints of blood but was back in training five weeks later. His friend Paul Allen said: "Nobody could believe it that he had just come off his deathbed and he was training like this. It was unbelievable."

'Make-up job'

The court heard Murray began plotting Britain's biggest robbery in the summer of 2005.

Murray, Allen and Kane Patterson - all from south-east London - teamed up with several men from Kent, including cage-fighter Lea Rusha, his Albanian-born friend Jetmir Bucpapa and car dealer Stuart Royle.

Bucpapa had a friend, Ermir Hysenaj, who worked at the Securitas depot and he provided key inside information that helped Murray's plan come to fruition.

Murray asked his hairdresser friend Michael Demetris if he could borrow an employee, make-up artist Michelle Hogg, for a "make-up job". Mr Demetris, who was later acquitted of all charges, was unaware of what Murray had planned.

By February 2006 the gang was ready to move.

Sir John Nutting QC, prosecuting, said Murray and Rusha, wearing prosthetic disguises, were believed to have been the fake police officers who ambushed depot manager Colin Dixon and abducted his wife and child.

Murray is also believed to have been the robber dubbed "Stopwatch" by detectives because he was seen on the CCTV tape bossing the gang around and timing their every move.

The port of Rabat
Murray went to Rabat in February 2006

He organised the raid with military precision and ensured the gang left the depot after being on site for less than an hour.

Four days after the robbery Murray and Allen fled to Morocco.

The court heard the pair lived in luxury in the swish Souissi district of the capital, Rabat, where Murray bought a villa and spent $1m (£667,200) refurbishing it.

Among the decorations were a statue of himself and a mural of his Las Vegas cage-fighting debut.

Hundreds of thousands of pounds in Moroccan bank accounts were then frozen, but the country's courts refused to extradite Murray, who qualifies for citizenship through his Moroccan father.

Joel Bennathan QC, for Mr Demetris, told his trial: "Lee Murray was perfectly happy to get people involved and implicated and then waltz off to Morocco with £30m, not worrying about people he had got mixed up, people like Michael Demetris."

Murray served time in Salé Prison outside Rabat after being convicted of drugs charges and assaulting police officers. Last year, the Moroccan supreme court decided that because of his dual-nationality, he could not be extradited to Britain.

After a trial in Morocco he was jailed for 10 years for the Securitas robbery.



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