International Crime

‘Ex-soldier’ raiding Home Counties houses at gunpoint

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 A highly-professional soldier with a “commanding nature” is believed to have carried out seven violent £1m raids with military-style planning.

The man stakes out expensive Home Counties properties and knows their exact layout and location of safes by the time he raids the homes, wielding a sawn-off shotgun, Surrey Police said

He has taken jewellery, watches and “irreplaceable heirlooms”.

Victim Susan Morris, 61, said: “He knew exactly how hard to hit me.”

An appeal has now gone out from four police forces after raids across Berkshire, Kent, Surrey and Sussex between November 2014 and October 2017.

Mrs Morris said the raider kept asking her for more jewellery during the raid in October at her home in Kingswood, Surrey.

“He hit me three times on my face, it was very painful, I couldn’t believe the blows kept coming,” she said.

Mrs Morris said at one point she could not get a ring and bracelet off, and added: “I actually thought ‘he’s going to cut my finger off’.”

When her husband came home from work, he found her still tied up with cables and hiding in a bedroom.

Describing the thief, she said: “I would say he spoke well, he had no accent, he didn’t have bad grammar, he’s an intelligent man, he knows how to assess the situation and carry this out.”

Police believe the burglar could be ex-military because of his levels of preparation, and his “well-spoken, intelligent” language and manner, but they have said he could be a current member of the armed forces or law enforcement.

Det Insp Dee Fielding, from Surrey Police, said: “We do not believe this to be the work of an opportunist burglar, but someone who has specialist knowledge and skills, possibly ex forces or from a similar background.”

Officers said he operates alone, speaks little, threatens to kill people and their dogs and is “incredibly decisive”.

On each occasion, the man has used “unnecessary levels of violence”, police said.

Det Insp Fielding said the raids have occurred about once every six months, possibly as the offender needed money.

She said that whereas most people would need two hands to use a cable tie, this man is able to tie people up using one hand even while they are struggling.

The man is thought to have got into houses before the raids to better understand the layout, and has been seen on CCTV staking out targets.

Police say they are looking for someone who may seem to have money disproportionate to their job, and might be travelling or away for long periods of time.

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