There was a certain group of professional blaggers from the West end of Newcastle who were very active throughout their criminal careers who specialised in major robberies. They were well trained, disciplined and very experienced. They had a good combination of brains, braun and extreme bravery. They knew how to work as one; as a unit. I’ve mentioned before that my family are always there for me and stand together and show strength and resilience and no fear – that’s what this lot were like.
One day the word came through amongst the boys that they had a good ‘card marker’. A card marker is an individual on the inside who knows about the timings of large cash movements. The graft is only as good as your card marker’s knowledge and, if he or she has first hand information from working there, it does not get any better. I mean, the card marker is your inside eyes and ears, the provider of all the information you’d ever need!
Back in the 80s nearly everyone got paid in cash. We didn’t have the systems in place that we have today, so if a villain found a business where a few hundred people were working, there was a high probability that a large amount of money would be moved there to be distributed amongst the workforce.
In this instance, the card marker gave the lads a heads up about money that was being transferred to pay the nurses
and cleaning staff at the eight hospitals in the area. The money would be picked up from a security cash depot in Washington and taken to Pritchard Security depot in Gateshead. The lads were on it and plans were set in place. They did their research properly by watching the vehicle’s movements over a prolonged period of time and the only problem they would have to overcome as far as they could see was when the vehicle left the cash depot it would drive approximately 500 meters until it got to a roundabout. At that point, there was a choice of three exits but the security van never took the same route. That would mean anyone wanting to hit it would either have to do so during that 500 metre stretch, or take the chance of having to cover three possible scenarios, and that would have an impact on the plan. It was decided that they’d strike at the roundabout.
At 8 o’clock on a Wednesday morning in late March 1987, the lads headed to Washington and were ready and waiting. They sat in the vehicle with the windows steamed up, trying not to draw any unwanted attention to themselves. They sat there for five or ten minutes in silence, readying themselves, all of them psyched with adrenaline, before the radio crackled into action. One of them picked the radio up and said, ‘Repeat, Repeat,’ and a message came back.
‘It’s on its way.’
Everybody knew what to do. These boys had been doing this for some time. The balaclavas were rolled down over their faces and the pump-action shotguns were cocked with the safeties removed. These boys meant business and nobody would stop them.
As the security van approached the roundabout they noticed a car very close to it, but nothing would hinder the job. Within seconds there was a car in front of the van and one at the back boxing it in and forced it to a standstill. There were three security guards in the front of the van and two of the armed masked gunmen positioned themselves at the driver’s and passenger’s doors, pointed their shotguns at them and told them all to get out. There was a man in the back of the van who refused to open the door.
The three front seat occupants were now laid face down on the ground with their hands on their heads. There was no messing: the lads had a job to do and so did the security guards. They were there to protect the money, but does a security guard’s wage pay enough to risk getting your head blown apart by a shotgun? It doesn’t. The stakes were too high for the robbers and they wouldn’t back down at such a hurdle. Besides, when you’ve locked yourself into a security van and you can see that going on, it probably feels like your safest option to stay put.
One of the security guards was brought to his knees at the back of the van and had a gun placed to his head. The demand was simple – if the back door didn’t open in three seconds a man would die. The security guard in the back of the van had a change of heart and opened up. He was dragged out, placed on the ground and, with a gun to his head, was told not to move. He didn’t.
At that point, some traffic had built up behind them – around six cars – with all the occupants watching events unfold. One of the lads ran over and pointed the gun at them and demanded they threw their car keys out of their windows. All the occupants did as he said with no hesitation. At the same time another lad had got into the back of the security van. He emptied it in moments taking five boxes. Job done, they were back in their vehicles and they were off within a few minutes. There was no stopping them and the security guards didn’t know what had hit them. Everyone complied and no one got hurt – textbook-style bit of graft. Once out of the way, the lads switched cars twice; both times setting the previous car ablaze to prevent the police planting evidence. They then headed to the slaughter to share out the wages.
The boxes felt a bit light as they headed into the house and there was a feeling that the half a million haul that they were expecting was not what they’d got away with. When the boxes were opened the contents didn’t even look close to £50k. The radio was on at the time in the background and a newsflash said that, ‘a firm of armed robbers had stopped and successfully robbed a security van on a daring daylight raid.’ It carried on to say that they had successfully escaped with £300k. It was nice of them to mention that the money had been compressed by a machine and it had steel bands around it. When one of the lads cut the bands off the money instantly expanded. Not a bad mornings work for a four man team each clearing £75k minus the expenses such as the card marker, cars, safe house, boiler suites etc. Once the money was shared out the gang went their separate ways. That night the robbery hit the local news on a regional news show called Northern Life. Northumbria Police released a statement which was short and simple: ‘We are now dealing with a new breed of criminal.’
With the blags that were going on at the time for these criminals, they must have netted around £4.5m easily. If you bear in mind when that was and equate it to today’s money, you’re talking around £45m. Now that’s a lot of money!
Order your copy now at www.thesayers.co.uk