Chasing armed robbers

1977, January: Guildford: Armed Deployment at Newlands Corner: Simon Nelson: I had just joined "C" Section at Guildford shortly after leaving Training School. My parent constable was PC 795 Nicholas Charles Overton who was an authorised firearms officer. ... more

On my first set of night duty at about 3 am I was on foot patrol in Guildford High Street when "Golf One Zero" Inspector Nick Owen asked for an RV [rendezvous] and shortly after screeched to a halt beside us in an unmarked dark blue Ford Escort Mk1 and yelled to us to get in. We then made our way towards the police station in Margaret Road.

On the way Inspector Owen told us that there was a car heading towards Guildford on the A25 having been sighted in Reigate, and was suspected of containing three armed robbers from the north of England. I think a unit from Reigate was following at a discreet distance and the robbers were not aware of them. When we pulled into the car park we were met by the crew of a marked Triumph Pi Traffic car, the driver being PC Roger Weedon, also an authorised shot.

I accompanied Inspector Owen, PC Weedon and PC Overton to the armoury where Inspector Owen issued a hand gun and ammunition each to PCs Overton and Weedon who signed for them. PC Overton then accompanied PC Weedon and the other Traffic PC in the Traffic car and they sped off towards the A25 with blue light on. Inspector Owen then asked me to get in his car and we drove off towards the A25. Luckily it must have been a Sunday/Monday night as there was nothing about on the roads at all.

On the way more information was received that the suspect vehicle had continued through Dorking and was still heading along the A25 towards Guildford. A short time later we joined the A25 from Trodds Lane and saw the Traffic Car parked at the brow of the hill at the entrance to Newlands Corner car park. Nearby there was an articulated HGV stationary on the A25.

Inspector Owen reversed his Escort onto the verge on the left just prior to an entrance to a small tea shop so that it was facing the A25 road. He then told me to stay with the car and monitor the force radio on channel "H J 2" and that if any vehicles came up the A25 from the direction of Guildford to stop and tell them the road was blocked and to use the A246 Clandon Road. Fortunately not one car approached me.

Sometime later I heard on the radio that the suspect car was approaching the Silent Pool and travelling at a normal speed of about forty to fifty mph and that there were no other cars between the suspect and our position. I then saw that some police accident signs and flashing blue lights had been placed out from the Traffic car and the Articulated HGV had been moved across the road in a simulated "Jack-knife" accident scene and was completely blocking the road.

It was at this stage that my heart started thumping to bursting point and all sorts of things were racing through my mind. My main thought was where can I go when the bullets start flying? My view of the A25 as it comes up the hill from the direction of Silent Pool was hidden by the HGV so I could only sit and listen through the open window of the car.

I then heard some shouting and at this point I decided to get out of the car and crouch on the far side by one of the front wheels and adjacent to the engine, thinking than this must be the thickest part of the car and should stop bullets and shot-gun pellets. Just behind me was dense woodland and part two of my plan if things went badly wrong was to run and hide.

Shortly after this Inspector Owen came back and got on the radio and gave a situation report that all three were in custody without any problems. I then went with Inspector Owen to the scene of the stop where I saw the suspect's car had stopped safely and the three occupants were lying face down on the road having been hand-cuffed. No firearms were found on the occupants but a search of the car located sawn-off shotguns, ammunition, masks and gloves. The prisoners were then separated and taken to Guildford.

I heard that the occupants had not suspected a thing and that they had stopped normally thinking the police were dealing with an accident. They were then confronted with the armed officers and were compliant to their orders.

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