16/09/2021

Daylight robbery

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We sorted out our warehousing, by locating our stock at a TNT Luton warehouse. For a fee they would store, then pick, pack and ship our orders, which made life a lot less physical for us. The ZX Spectrum had become a commodity product – the only other time I would encounter this was the Apple iPod, which could also able to be used as currency.

One Sunday morning the TNT warehouse had just one individual patrolling inside as their security. Outside a young girl, driving with L-plates, drove into a skip, with a loud collision. The guard instinctively went out to help her, where he was confronted by a guy with a sawn-off, who marched him back into the warehouse. The gang put the guard into a trailer and backed it up against the warehouse wall. They had stolen around £300k at cost price of Spectrums, that meant they had taken a large number of units!

A Regional Crime Squad was tasked with investigating the heist, run by an interesting DS who kept me appraised of progress.

We offered a reward and this bore early fruit when a sales trainer at a major company gave a nudge-nudge-wink-wink comment to his trainees, stating he could get them a cheap Spectrum. One of the trainees reported him and got a piece of the reward when we recovered 10s of units.

In another incident some suspicious guys were trailed and followed aboard a ferry at Holyhead bound for Dublin, approached by the police they threw their cache of Spectrums overboard – and somehow these soggy boxes were retrieved. The Squad eventually recovered all of our stock and only the soggy ones were the subject of an insurance claim.

Trade press comment on stock recovered

As the case was being made against the raiders the DS would often phone me to say he needed to check some facts. It took me a few such trips before I realised that the appeal was in fact the pub opposite our Mora Street, city premises. It had lunchtime, ‘Readers-wives’ strippers. He would ask his questions and then spend an hour or so in the pub. He left his folder in my office and I couldn’t resist a little skim through it. Some of the interviews contained in it would have been a straight cut-and-paste into the Sweeney or Minder. They were interviewing the guy assumed as the ultimate boss of the heist, too important to have ever been near the robbery or the goods. They recovered quite a lot of the stock in a lock-up in Margate. They asked him when he had last visited Margate, he replied ‘Is that outside London?’, they asked again and he said ‘Can’t see the point of going out of London – never have’. I was impressed by the judicious editing of expletives. But they only ever convicted low-level players and downstream handlers

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