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Two arrested in huge England heist



Great Britain
Crime, Law and Justice

(CNN) -- Two people have been arrested in connection with the multi-million-dollar armed robbery in southeast England, police say.

Detectives from Kent police's serious and major crime squad arrested a 29-year-old man and a 31-year-old woman in the London area, according to a police statement Thursday.

The arrests come after Wednesday's robbery at a security depot in which an armed gang stole at least £25 million ($44 million) in cash after abducting the manager, his wife and their 8-year-old son.

The two are being held at police stations in Kent, where they're being questioned on suspicion of conspiracy to commit robbery.

"The arrests at this stage are significant," Assistant Chief Constable Adrian Leppard told reporters late Thursday.

Earlier in the day, he said the heist was carried out with "military precision" by professional robbers operating at the "top level" of organized crime.

Leppard called the robbery a "terrifying crime," and he appealed for information about vehicles connected to what is Britain's biggest robbery.

The security firm Securitas and its insurers have announced a reward of up to £2 million ($3.5 million) for information leading to the recovery of the money taken from the depot in Tonbridge, Kent.

"This is organized crime at its top level. This was planned and executed with military precision," Leppard said.

"This is a terrifying crime committed by professional and organized gangsters."

In the first CCTV image released Thursday, the rear door of the white truck used in the heist is shown open, apparently ready for the piles of cash to be placed inside.

Another shot shows the vehicle from the side. None of the gang, thought to number six men, is clearly visible.

"We know that someone out there will have seen or heard information that could be vital to our investigation, or they suspect who could be responsible," he told reporters.

The cash -- a mixture of new and used bank notes -- was stolen from a security depot.

The robbers captured the depot's manager, then took his wife and son hostage and threatened to harm them unless he helped them get inside the high-security compound, police said.

The Bank of England, Britain's central bank, confirmed that at least £25 million ($44 million) of its money had been stolen.

The bank added that Securitas, the private company that owned the depot, had reimbursed it for that amount and British taxpayers would not be out of pocket.

Securitas said an audit had gone on through the night to try to work out exactly how much had been taken in Wednesday's raid.

The gang must have had inside information, crime experts said. The governor of the Bank of England has called for a review of security arrangements for the storage of banknotes following the raid.

In the United Kingdom's previous biggest cash robbery, £26.5 million ($46.3 million) was stolen from the Northern Bank in Belfast in December 2004.

Staff shocked

The robbery began Tuesday evening when the manager was stopped by what he believed to be an unmarked police car about 6:30 p.m. Tuesday as he drove home from work, police said. The car was believed to be a Volvo with blue lights in its radiator grill.

"A passenger wearing a high-visibility jacket and police-style hat got out and spoke to the manager who, thinking these were genuine police officers, got back into the car with him where he was handcuffed," police said. The Volvo drove off. (Watch as police investigate the crime -- 2:04)

At about the same time, the manager's wife and young son were visited at their home by two men who said they were police officers and told them there had been an accident involving the manager. The wife and son were taken from their home, police said.

Meanwhile, the Volvo met up with a white van, and the manager was tied up, put into the van and driven to an unknown location, where he was threatened at gunpoint and told his family would be at risk if he did not cooperate, authorities said.

About 1 a.m. Wednesday, the manager was taken to the security depot. A white truck also arrived there, and six men -- at least some of whom were armed -- tied up the depot staff on duty "and then loaded a substantial amount of money" into the truck, police said.

"They left about 2:15 a.m. and staff raised the alarm about an hour later. No one was hurt during the incident, but the staff were all very shocked by what happened."

The statement did not address when the manager's wife and child were released, and did not divulge the amount stolen.

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