LAUGH OF THE RAT: Battered and bloody Dome raider cracks

HeadLine: LAUGH OF THE RAT: Battered and bloody Dome raider cracks
jokes after his arrest

The Mirror, 08/11/2000, p4&5
by LUCY TURNER, JEFF EDWARDS, LUCY ROCK & SHAUN MILNE

POLICE marksmen kept their weapons trained on the captured raiders as
they stood manacled in a line, a Dome worker revealed last night.
One of the gang, hurt when the JCB smashed into the Dome, joked with
officers despite his injuries.
The employee, who asked not to be identified, said: “Four of the
suspects were lined up along the wall and were guarded by armed police,
who had their guns pointing at them. All the men arrested were dressed
in white forensic smocks and jeans.
“At one point their handcuffs were taken off, so the police could put
clear plastic gloves on them.
“One of the gang, who was standing apart from the other three, was
laughing and joking with the detectives, even though his face was
covered in bruises. He was a real mess. The lower part of his face was
purple and bloody.
“I was told he got battered when his face hit the steering wheel of the
JCB as he went forward. He looked a right state but was still smiling.
“Police were filming everything and some detectives, disguised as hosts
and cleaners, had their pictures taken with the suspects.”
Despite the success of the police operation, there was concern last
night about whether Dome visitors – which included school children –
and staff were put at risk.
The worker added: “A lot of the staff at the Dome are cross because we
felt the public were put in danger. You don’t expect to go to work and
find out an armed robbery is in progress.
“They said no shots were fired, but my colleague was convinced he heard
shots.
“He said either the windscreen or the side window looked like it had
been shot out.”
And head teacher Elizabeth Lutzeier was angered that 29 of her pupils
from All Hallows in Farnham, Surrey, were allowed into the Dome as
armed police lay in wait.
Mrs Lutzeier, 48, said: “It was obviously a very serious matter and I’m
concerned that if the police knew about it why did they let children
near?
“If they told me about it beforehand and even assured me the children
would have been safe it’s not a risk I’d have taken.
“Police have said the public were not in danger but I am certainly
going to be asking questions.”
But Detective Superintendent John Shatford said: “By going into the
vault they imprisoned themselves, which is why we let them go in
instead of moving earlier.
“It was better than risking them escaping and running into members of
the public while they had a gun, it kept the risk to a minimum.”
The gang, dubbed the River Rats, would have struck three weeks ago, but
their getaway boat would not start. Police who shadowed them for months
watched as the men frantically tried to get the outboard engine going
and move the inflatable from a mooring in East London to a pier at the
Dome.
After half an hour tinkering with the fuel and tugging the starting
cord, they gave up and went home.
A Scotland Yard source said: “Everything was ready to go. They had a
getaway van in position and we could tell by the activity this was the
day they were going to go for it. But the boat engine wouldn’t fire, so
they were knackered.
“The surveillance team could see them muttering and cursing under their
breath.”
Police decided not to move in then fearing there might not be enough
evidence.
Last night the men were also being questioned about two bungled
attempted robberies that would have netted almost pounds 20million. In
both cases the criminals fled empty-handed in inflatable boats.
As the men were being quizzed, witnesses told how they saw the raid
unfold – and the police swing into action to spring their trap.
A smattering of early visitors was outnumbered by scores of workers
repairing the zones, cleaners putting litter into black sacks and
performers donning costumes when the gang struck.
One worker, who was outside McDonald’s where schoolchildren were having
breakfast, told how the digger came smashing into the Dome 20 yards
away.
The 28-year-old man, who did not want to be named, said: “There was an
enormous crashing noise. At first I thought something had fallen on top
of the Dome it was that loud. Then I saw a JCB moving across towards
the Money Zone.
“There were two men on it, one driving and the other clinging to the
side.
“They were dressed like builders. The non-driver had _ a large shoulder
bag. They tried to ram it through the doors of the jewellery vault.
“I started to walk towards them but one of our cleaners, who I now
realise was an undercover policeman, told me to stop.
Three minutes later the men jumped from the JCB and disappeared inside
the vault. The worker added: “I heard very clearly men shouting, ‘Stop,
armed police’.
Teacher Andrew Worth, from Colfox Primary School in Dorset, who was
with pupils in McDonald’s, said: “We heard what sounded like gunfire.
The children are OK.”
Another member of staff, a man aged 33, said: “It was very frightening
for everyone.
“I know people are saying it is like a James Bond film and it may sound
exciting now, but the reality is someone could have been killed and
that’s a sobering thought.”

**



Categories: Daily Mirror articles

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