Armed robbery in Windlesham 1989

1989: A potentially very dangerous firearms incident was to centre on the village of Windlesham off the A30 just to the north of Camberley. This was a joint operation with the Metropolitan Police Flying Squad who had information that an armed raid would take place on the house of an elite Arab family in Windlesham.

They were famous racehorse owners, and came to England for the races. There was a large house, which had millions of pounds spent on it, and in the grounds was another house used by the wives. The story was that three men would travel out from London, park just off the A30, walk up a back lane and attack the house. They were prepared to use considerable force as there was supposedly up to half a million pounds worth of jewellery and cash in the house.

The information was substantiated when the Flying Squad followed the team from London to the premises when they were undertaking a reconnaissance. As a result an operation was put together. Operations negotiated with Smith Klyne Beecham who had offices alongside the track that the villains would use, and established a command post in the lecture hall.

Chief Superintendent Peter Stevens the Divisional Commander was there as was Superintendent Bartlett the ground commander for the Firearms Support Team. The communications base was established and a plan agreed. The Metropolitan Police Detective Chief Inspector Albert Patrick, later Detective Chief Superintendent, was a huge man who had been a wrestling champion.

He came and went during the evening making surreptitious calls on his mobile phone from the back of the room. This is typical Flying Squad. Tell no one a thing. Keep it to yourself. Do not trust anybody. However, we were monitoring all local cell phone traffic with a gizmo from the front of the room and overheard all his calls something he was not aware of!

The police were using pagers to pass messages and to keep track of the villains as they came out of London under surveillance. It had become too easy to monitor mobiles and police radios to the point that on a major operation they were supposedly to be treated as totally unreliable.

The plan was for the Firearms Support Team to take up positions in the lane that the men would walk down. The Firearms Support Team would be in blacks (in specialist black overalls from tip to toe) armed and carrying very powerful search and rescue lamps. As the villains came up to the team in the total darkness the men would from the ditch shine the lamps in their faces and disorientate them. The villains would of course be covered by armed officers at all times. A police helicopter would then arrive on scene, and fully illuminate the area, or, in the worst case trace anyone who had run off.

The villains were monitored from London to where they entered the lane where they left their vehicle with one man as the getaway driver. Armed with shotguns the two other men walked up the lane one on either side, until the trap was sprung. "Armed Police - stand still!" was the instruction shouted at the men. This was heard in the command post over Sergeant Peter Moore's radio, and then there was a lengthy silence until the news came through that the villains had been detained and no one had been hurt.

It is very hard to be in the command post not being able to monitor what is actually going on. The heart pounds and any conversation ceases – just as it did in this case for those Firearms Support Team members deployed! You just have to wait; a plan is made and away the team goes.

It is a maxim that no plan survives contact with the enemy. There are always last minute changes and variations and of course those on the ground have to respond to what the villains do and that is why the officers are so carefully chosen and trained. One of the planning skills is to consider the "What ifs" of the operation and to consider in advance what the response is to be and have a cunning plan and resources available. For example, if the men had turned and run back to their car we would have people in position to stop them.

The villains were arrested and charged being found guilty of conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

Letter sent to all Firearms Support Team members on the Operation:

letter sent to all Firearms Support Team

1990: Firearms Support Team: Arrest of men sentenced to ten years for attempting to commit armed robbery at the home of Sheik Hammad Al Maktoum. The trial judge expressed a wish that congratulations should be conveyed to all concerned in the case particularly the Firearms Support Team who acted with restraint and high degree of professionalism.267

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267 Annual Report 1990.

 

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