Police charged three suspects Wednesday in the $92 million robbery at a cash depot in southeastern England — the world’s largest known peacetime theft.
The charges against the trio are the first in the investigation of the theft last week at the security warehouse in Tonbridge, 30 miles southeast of London.
Police said car salesman John Fowler, 57, was charged with conspiracy to rob the Securitas Cash Management Ltd. warehouse and with kidnapping depot manager Colin Dixon, his wife Lynn and their 9-year-old son.
Stuart Royle, 47, was charged with conspiracy to rob, while Kim Shackelton, a 39-year-old woman, was charged with handling stolen goods.
Thirteen suspects have been arrested since the heist, but the three were the first formally charged by police.
Fowler is the owner of a farm, near Tonbridge, which has been the focus of intensive police searches. Police have refused to confirm television reports that a substantial amount of money has been found there.
Biggest theft in peacetime
The sophisticated robbery is believed to be the largest heist during peacetime. It eclipsed a $70 million theft from the Central Bank in Fortaleza, Brazil in August, a $65 million heist at the Knightsbridge Safe Deposit Center in London in 1987, and a $50 million robbery at the Northern Bank of Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 2004.
But all four were dwarfed by the wartime theft of $900 million in U.S. bills and as much as $100 million worth of euros from the Iraq Central Bank in 2003.
Earlier Wednesday, the depot reopened for the first time since robbers got away with their record haul, while police examined a van they suspect was used to transport the loot.
“We are just trying to get back to normal. It’s obviously a big disruption to all of them,” said Securitas spokesman Carl Courtney.
The 14 employees who were held hostage by the robbers won’t return until “they and their counselors decide the time is right,” Courtney added.