Authors: Mark Timlin
the lights changed to green, Jack let the cars in front go, then turned sharp
left and stopped just past the pedestrian crossing. Stevie pulled the bus
across three lanes of traffic, stalled the engine, hopped out of the cab
wearing a busman's cap pulled low over his eyes, turned off the fuel cutout
lever by the driver's door, and vanished into the crowd of pedestrians waiting
to cross at the intersection towards the tube station. Immediately, a cacophony
of horns began, and a young woman named Mavis Hampton opened the front doors of
the bank ready for business.
and Jimmy had been watching the doors for weeks from various points around the
crossroads, individually or together, sometimes up close and sometimes on the
far side of the street. They knew exactly what would happen next: Mavis would
unlock the massive wooden doors with huge, round, brass handles - relics of the
days when banks were strong and secure, the bastions of the establishment -
fasten them back, greet any waiting customers and hold open one of the half
glass doors for them, turn, stroll back to the security door at the side of the
counter which led into the bank's inner sanctum, turn her key, go behind the
bulletproof screen to do whatever she did to earn her crust, letting that door
swing closed behind her.
morning there were two early punters: a young Rastafarian in a woolly hat and a
long overcoat, too warm for the weather, and an elderly woman with a shopping
trolley. Mavis locked back the big, thick doors, smiled at the waiting pair and
opened one of the inner doors for them to enter and do their financial
business. But today something was different. Today, Mavis's worst nightmares
were about to come true. As the civilians stepped inside, the three robbers
pulled their caps down over their faces leaving only gaps for eyes and mouth, and
sprung from the car as one, Jimmy carrying the four nylon bags over his
shoulder. Almost unnoticed by the commuters rushing to work, they freed their
weapons and burst through the bank's front entrance just as Mavis opened the
security door. Jimmy leapt the few yards between them, pushed her through the
doorway on to the floor, stuck the barrel of his shotgun into the back of her
neck and screamed: 'No one move or she's dead!'
two companions took up positions inside the foyer, Paid at the door with
stopwatch and pistol, Dave inside, covering Jimmy and forcing the two customers
to lie prone on the floor.
safe!' yelled Jimmy.
Boswick, twenty-eight, undermanager of the bank, was just - as Jimmy knew he
would be - opening the time-controlled lock of the main vault. He stood open
mouthed at the sight of the three bank robbers who, it seemed, had arrived from
going,' ordered Jimmy.
considered for one second slamming the vault shut. When he saw Mavis, who he'd
always secretly fancied but had never plucked up enough courage to ask out,
flat on her face with a vicious-looking weapon drilling into the back of her
pretty neck, he decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and did
as he was told. He swung the huge, counter-balanced door open.
saw the piles of cash inside and smiled as he sweated behind his mask. 'Now!'
he yelled, tossing the four bags to Barry. 'Fill 'em up.'
did as he was told.
remained at his position by the door, stopwatch in one hand, pistol in the
other. 'Come on, come on!' he screamed. 'One minute thirty left.' He turned his
attention to the customers on the floor for a moment and saw the young black
man peering up at him. 'Face to the floor, you nigger bastard,' he spat. 'Don't
look at me, or I'll fucking kill you.'
black man showed his teeth at the insult, but did as he was told.
was chaos. Cars piled up on all three approach roads behind the abandoned bus,
just as Jimmy knew they would, preventing the coppers from arriving from any
but one point of the compass. The road away towards London was empty, except
for the idling Ford.
crashed into the bags as Jimmy oversaw the loading and Dave covered the staff
and the two customers.
on,' shouted Paul as another customer entered the bank. Paul grabbed him by the
shoulder and forced him to join those on the floor.
was more money in the vault than any of the men had ever seen and it seemed to
be taking forever for Barry Boswick, shaking with fear, to load it into the
seconds,' screamed Paul. 'Come on, quick.'
the job was done, the bags were full to overloading and the shelves of the
vault were empty of everything except bagged change.
Paul called out.
shouted Jimmy who picked up the bags and threw one at Paul who caught it one
handed, surprised at the weight. Dave hefted the other three and staggered into
the foyer behind him.
grabbed a bag, and all three ran from the bank out to the car, scattering
pedestrians in their wake. Then it was inside the motor and away.
least, that was the plan.
three of the robbers in the car didn't know was that some days previously the
fourth had been pulled in by the police over another matter entirely. A very
serious matter, which might have cost him his freedom for a lot of years. As he
sat facing Detective Constable Billy Farrow in an interview room in Brixton
Police Station, the criminal in question told the DC every detail of the bank
unknown to his companions, a police operation was laid on for that day, and as
the robbery took place they were being watched from vantage points all around
the bank by heavily armed members of the Flying Squad, Special Patrol Group and
the gang headed for the car, the young Rastafarian reached inside his overcoat
for the radio concealed there. 'Go, go, go!' said Detective Sergeant Winston
Martin before helping the terrified customers to their feet and going to check
on Mavis Hampton and the rest of the bank staff.
to be picked up was Stevie Little as he ran down the stairs into Brixton
Underground station. Two young constables, dressed in street clothes were
waiting at the bottom and grabbed an arm each as he went to the ticket machine.
'Hello Stevie,' said the first one as he produced his handcuffs and cautioned
the man. 'You should've stayed on the bus.'
said Stevie under his breath as he allowed himself to be taken without a fight.
on the street, the four other gang members were all now in the car and Jack
stuck it into gear, let off the footbrake, swung out into the empty road and
took off. But as he did so, cars converged from the side streets off Brixton
Road and suddenly his escape route was blocked. Heavy steel barriers running
down the middle of the street prevented him from doing a U-turn, so he shot up
on to the pavement, sending startled pedestrians diving for cover, but even
that route was blocked when a police van •merged from a pedestrian alleyway and
slid in front of them.
hell,' yelled Jimmy from his seat. 'Out! Take the money.'
skidded the Ford to a halt on the wide pavement outside Morleys department
store and the four men did as Jimmy had ordered, guns at the ready. Suddenly
the streets of Brixton were a free fire zone.
man took a different route away from the stalled Ford. Paul ran back in the
direction of the bank, saw an armed SPG officer, and grabbed a middle-aged woman
on her way to do some shopping in the market as a shield. He held his pistol to
her head, but two more blue-clad police carrying automatic weapons moved from
the doorway of an office where they had been observing the scene, and he
realised that he was outgunned. On the orders of the first officer, he released
his hostage, dropped his gun and bag of loot and assumed a prone position on
the dirty pavement.
ran towards the open door of Morleys, but two coppers were waiting for him.
When he saw his escape route blocked, he fired his gun twice at one of the huge
plate glass windows of the store. It imploded in a cascade of broken glass. He
jumped into the gap, kicking aside mannequins in scanty lingerie and, knocking
aside anyone in his way, made for the back doors pursued by the two uniformed
police officers. When he crashed out of the back entrance he was met by two
more PCs, who had been alerted by radio. He raised his.38 and fired, hitting
one of the uniforms in the side. Looking more surprised than hurt, the
policeman leant up against a lamppost before sliding down into a sitting
position. His oppo, who had expected to be well away from any shooting, drew
and hurled his truncheon at the armed man, but missed. Jack turned on his heel
and headed up a narrow alley between two high, brick walls. The two coppers
from Morleys gave chase, whilst the officer who'd thrown his baton tried to
staunch the blood from his mate's wound and call an ambulance on his personal
radio through transmissions that were threatening to overload the frequency.
Jack kept running, the two coppers sweating in pursuit. He turned another
corner only to come face to face with a handsome young plainclothes detective
pointing an automatic pistol straight into his face. 'Go on, son,' said the
officer, the line of his immaculate suit only spoiled by the radio in his
jacket pocket that was quietly spewing out commands and counter-commands. 'You
like shooting at coppers, don't you? Try me.'
thought for a second, then smiled and carefully placed his gun on the pavement
as the two uniforms came round the corner behind him and pushed him head first
into the wall, using their elbows and fists to constrain him as they cuffed him
up and read him his rights. 'You should've waited a minute,' said the
plainclothes policeman holstering his gun. 'And I could've shot him in self
looked at the man over his shoulder and saw that he was deadly serious and that
he had come closer to being killed than he liked. 'Bastard,' he said.
Bastard Sir, to you,' said the detective, and he hit Jack in the face.
with his fist. He didn't want to break his delicate knuckles. So he used the
heel of his hand as some grizzled old copper had taught him when he first
joined the force. Jack's nose broke, and blood poured from his nostrils.
remember you,' Jack said through teeth gritted with pain, shaking claret from
nice,' said the young copper. 'Do that. My name's Nick. What's yours?'
said nothing in reply, the detective just grinned. 'Take him away,' he said.
meanwhile, made a run for it across Brixton Road. He jumped over the barrier,
dodged between cars heading out of town and headed towards Electric Avenue,
where he hoped to lose himself in Brixton Market. But luck wasn't running his
way that morning. From the direction of central London, his nemesis in the
shape of an ancient white Ford Transit full of plumbing supplies and tools, was
heading his way. At the wheel was a plumber named Phil Hardy. Not that his name
matters. Phil was late for a job on Streatham Hill. And when he saw the lights
at the junction start to change he put his foot down. The old Tranny wasn't in
the best of condition and slightly overloaded, with rather less meat on the
tyres than the law demanded. So when Dave ran out in front of him, and Phil
Hardy slammed on the brakes, instead of a gentle deceleration, the truck
broadsided, hitting Dave hard enough to leave a body-shaped dent in the dirty
metal of the van. And also hard enough to split open the bag he was carrying
over his shoulder and send the cash inside flying into the air, where it gently
floated to the ground In a flurry of five, ten and twenty-pound notes. This
naturally caused the good citizens of Brixton - who knew a result when they saw
one - to stampede in a rush for the money.
Nicholls's neck was broken by the impact, and he was dead before his body
bounced on the tarmac. Jimmy Hunter had only been a few steps behind him, but
he managed to avoid joining Dave as a Lambeth vehicle fatality statistic, as he
body-swerved through the gentle rain of bank notes, dodging the vultures
scrabbling for the money, and he was away. Jimmy hardly spared a glance at
Dave's body. He was out of the game. One down, three to go. No time for
recriminations. Once the job was blown it was every man for himself. That was
Farrow, who, despite his junior rank, had instigated the obbo on the bank,
followed Jimmy closely across the empty northbound lane, over the barrier and
through the traffic. He also avoided obstacles and injury. 'James Hunter,' he
called to Jimmy's retreating back. 'Armed police! Stop or I'll shoot.' But, as
so many folks were fighting for the cash in front of him, it was a vain threat.