BREAKING the BANK
How a UFC fighter pulled off the biggest bank heist ever
At first glance it seemed like typical MMA clickbait, a low-rent version of Conor McGregor threatening to box against Floyd Mayweather, or Demi Lovato trolling for a professional fight.
England’s Daily Star recently “reported” that Alex Reid and Lee Murray were in talks to meet in a cage. Reid, a former MMA fighter and British tabloid heavyweight, is best known for his brief marriage to model Katie Price and his turn on Celebrity Big Brother.
As for Murray, he too is a former fighter; he made it to the UFC and once went the distance with the great Anderson Silva. It’s hard to imagine how he could meet an assignation to fight, however, given that he’s currently incarcerated in Morocco. While he’s there on drug-related charges, he’s best known for having masterminded the Securitas Heist, this century’s equivalent of the Great Train Robbery.
In 2006, with his professional fighting career on the decline, Murray rounded up a group of friends and training partners. Posing as policemen, they abducted a guard, entered a repository where currency was transferred among banks, and absconded with £53 million, or roughly $100 million at the time. (It would have been more, if only Murray and his crew had thought to rent a larger van.) As it was, theirs constituted the largest cash heist in history—pulled off without a single physical injury or even a bullet being fired.
As slick and organized as the thieves were during the actual heist, they were equally clumsy afterward. Because they hadn't thought through where to store the cash, they ended up stashing bills in closets. They abandoned one of the vehicles used in the crime and set it afire in the middle of a field, attracting attention. Inside another vehicle the bandits carelessly left ski masks, guns and more than £1 million in bills. The gang members soon began accusing each other of informing the police.
The son of a British mother and a Moroccan father, Murray fled to Morocco, which does not have an extradition policy with the U.K. But there Murray found himself involved in an altercation in a Rabat shopping mall, and when his home was searched police found drugs. He was sent to prison in Morocco, where he has resided since 2007, notwithstanding an attempted escape using tiny saws that were snuck in inside of biscuits. In ’10, Murray was convicted of masterminding the Securitas Heist and he faces 25 years in prison. It is still to be determined whether he will be extradited.
In 2008, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED covered Murray and the Securitas Heist in a magazine story titled “Breaking the Bank.” While the piece was optioned by Universal Studios and ran in print, British laws about ongoing criminal cases prevented the story from running online at the time. With the case’s criminal trials finally resolved, we are permitted to present this SI True Crime classic.
With flashing blue lights illuminating his rearview mirror, Colin Dixon pulled his car to the side of a deserted road. It was around six on the evening of Feb. 21, 2006, and Dixon had just clocked out from his job at the Securitas cash depot in Tonbridge, England, 30 miles southeast of central London. A purposely nondescript, brown building tucked behind a car repair garage, the depot serves as a regional warehouse of sorts, where cash for the Bank of England is stored and disbursed. Dixon, 52, was the manager.
Now, driving home, he figured he was getting pulled over by an unmarked police car for a routine traffic stop. A tall, athletic-looking man in a police uniform approached. Though it would turn out that the cop was no cop at all—the uniform was fake, the Kent police badge he flashed had been purchased on eBay, and the guy's face had been distorted with help from a professional makeup artist—Dixon was compliant. He got out of his Nissan sedan and was handcuffed and placed in the back of the other car.
He would later testify that the driver, a second man in uniform, turned and said menacingly, “You will have guessed we are not policemen.... Don't do anything silly and you won't get hurt.” When Dixon tried to adjust his handcuffs, he says the “officer” who'd apprehended him brandished a pistol and barked, “We're not f------ about. This is a nine-millimeter.”
Dixon was blindfolded and transferred to a van, then taken to a remote farm in western Kent. Meanwhile, two other fake cops drove to Dixon's home in the nearby town of Herne Bay, along with accomplices in a second van. Greeted at the door by Dixon's wife, Lynn, they explained that her husband had been in a serious traffic accident. They said that Lynn and the couple's young child needed to accompany them to the hospital. Outside the home, the Dixons were placed in the back of the second van and taken to the farm, where the Dixons were reunited. At once relieved and terrified, they were bound and held at gunpoint. Colin Dixon was ordered to give the plotters information about the depot. “If you cooperate, no one will get hurt. Otherwise,” one abductor warned, “you'll get a hole in you.”
A group of at least seven men then drove to the Securitas depot, Colin Dixon accompanying a phony police officer in a sedan and his family bound in the back of a large, white Renault truck. By now it was after midnight on the morning of Feb. 22. Surveillance video shows Dixon being buzzed into the depot with an officer beside him. Once inside, the fake cop overpowers the security guard and buzzes in the rest of the robbers wearing ski masks and armed with high-powered weapons, including an AK-47. Dixon told the 14 staffers working the graveyard shift, “They've got my family,” and instructed them not to touch the alarms. He proceeded to deactivate the security system and hand over the keys to the vault. The Dixons and the staff were then bound and placed in metal cages normally used for storing cash. The truck can be seen backing up to a loading dock.“If you cooperate, no one will get hurt. Otherwise,” one abductor warned the bank depot manager, “you'll get a hole in you.”
The robbers clearly knew their way around the depot—where the doors were located and how they locked—and with good reason. One member of the gang, Ermir Hysenaj, 28, an Albanian immigrant, was the classic inside man. Months earlier, after just a 10-minute job interview, Hysenaj had been hired for roughly $11 an hour to work the evening shift at the depot. It was later revealed that in the weeks before the robbery, he had come to work wearing a small video camera hidden in his belt buckle....MORE