Heathrow Robbery Plots Mastermind Jailed

A delivery driver was jailed for 16 years today for masterminding two multimillion- pound robbery plots.

John Beach, 37, of Stanwell, west London, got nine years for his role in a foiled £33 million gold, cash and diamonds raid in May 2004 at a Swissport cargo warehouse near Heathrow Airport.

Pictures of the robbers being arrested in front of stacks of gold bullion, which they had failed to steal, appeared the next day in the Mirror newspaper, invited along by the Metropolitan Police's Flying Squad to witness officers catch the gang red-handed.

Beach was not among those caught on the day but was convicted yesterday by a jury at Kingston Crown Court of conspiracy to rob.

He was also found guilty of a second identical count relating to his role as a behind-the-scenes co-ordinator in another, successful heist in February 2002.

On this earlier occasion, £4.5 million in cash was stolen from a plane being unloaded on the runway at Heathrow, his two-month trial heard.

Today, Judge Edward Southwell jailed Beach for an additional seven years for his part in this job, ordering both terms to run consecutively.

Beach's partner in crime, 47-year-old baggage handler Bernard Burvill, of Frimley Green, Surrey, was also found guilty of conspiracy to rob in the 2002 Heathrow heist.

He was sent down today for 10 years.

The jury failed to reach a verdict on the same charge relating to a third man, unemployed Steven Benham, 32, also of Stanwell.

The prosecution over the 2002 Heathrow robbery was made possible by evidence from a ``supergrass'', a former Heathrow ramp worker who has admitted being the robbers' inside man.

The grass, who cannot be named for legal reasons, confessed to his part in the conspiracy in the hope of a more lenient sentence.

He admitted leaving vans in loading bays at Heathrow for Beach and Burvill. He said the plans for the 2002 job went as far back as 1999.

Before dawn on February 11, 2002, two unknown robbers, who have never been caught, masqueraded as police and overpowered a Heathrow worker near Terminal 4 as he unloaded sums of various currencies from a British Airways plane flown into the UK from Bahrain.

The men, who had received a tip-off that the Bahrain flight - BA124 - was carrying money, escaped with £4.5 million in cash.

Beach had previously been tried for the later 2004 Swissport job but a jury had failed to reach a verdict.

In this latest trial, as well as being prosecuted for the 2002 Heathrow robbery, Beach was retried on the Swissport matter. And this time the jury found him guilty.

Prosecutor Anthony Glass QC said that in both heists Beach had been a link between the robbers and the inside agents.

Mr Glass told the trial: ``Our case against Beach is that he was an important link between the robbers and the inside man.''

Of Beach's involvement in the Swissport heist, the QC argued that similarities between the two raids should convince the jury that he had masterminded both.

On the day of the Swissport job, police were waiting.

At around 10am on May 17, 2004, eight masked men, dressed in black, burst out of a van after it smashed through a shutter at the depot.

CCTV cameras filmed the men as they set about loading 686lb (311kg) of banknotes, 269lb (122kg) of diamonds - worth £18 million - and gold worth £15 million into the van.

At the time of the foiled raid, Beach was in Slough making a delivery, going about his lawful business, the trial was told.

Moments after the break-in, officers caught seven of the eight robbers - one got away and has never been traced.

The captured robbers, all of whom admitted their part, were later sent down: Chris Smith, 30, of Eaton Wick, Berkshire, for eight years; John Davis, 22, of Datchet, Berkshire, Alan Larmont, 30, of Langley, Middlesex, Derek Sheehan, 34, of Hammersmith, west London, all for seven and a half years; Anthony Charles, 36, of no fixed address, for six years and nine months; Steve Nolan, 24, brother of Martin, and James Fox, 32, both for eight years.

At the initial Swissport trial, four men, including Beach, were tried for conspiracy to rob.

Martin Nolan, 30, of Horton, Berkshire, was convicted and jailed for 13 years.

Unlike today, the jury on that occasion was undecided on Beach, and acquitted Phil Hillier, 38, and Basil Bramble, 40, both of Stanwell.

Commenting after yesterday's guilty verdicts, Detective Superintendent Barry Phillips, from the Met's Flying Squad, said: ``This has been a particularly complex investigation into a robbery of millions of pounds worth of currency from Heathrow Airport.

``The investigation remains open and we are appealing for any information that will lead to the arrest and conviction of the suspects who carried out the robbery but have yet to be identified.

``I hope today's convictions demonstrate our commitment to relentlessly pursue all of the offenders who carried out this serious offence.''

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