The hunt for the Millennium Dome Bomber continues, we are told, although the police seem no nearer catching him/her/them than they were at the dawn of McBlair's Bogus Millennium.
|DCI Paul Armour|
Headed Operation Merlin
Both the Dome and former Prime Minister Angus McBlair are now history, although the arguments about who did what and who took cash from whom rumble on. But one unfinished chapter of the Dome's saga has now been concluded.
The trial of the Dome Diamond Gang ended at the Old Bailey yesterday with the five principal gang members collecting gaol sentences of 15 to 22 years for conspiracy to rob. An associate went down for 5 years following conviction for a lesser offence.
Detective Chief Inspector Armour of Scotland Yard was present in court for the sentences. Leader of Operation Merlin, he directed a lengthy surveillance operation and then the arrests of the thieves and their accomplices
Two of the verdicts were by an 11 to 1 majority, suggesting that one member of the jury belonged to the so-called "sceptic majority". The name was coined back in November 2000, when an opinion poll showed that 83% of those questioned thought that the news of the robbery was some sort of hoax.
Worse, about half of the sceptics thought that it was a publicity gimmick dreamed up by the notorious Pierson McAndelsen, chief crony and Heritage Minister to the then Prime Minister Angus McBlair. McAndelsen is still officially a missing person.
The trial, which lasted 6 weeks, took many peculiar twists and turns. The thieves tried to portray themselves as cheerful Cockney wide-boys and provided a succession of stories designed to shift the blame elsewhere or invalidate the charges.
One of their best pieces of invention was their defence to a charge of endangering life by crashing through a set of the Dome's hardened plastic doors in a stolen JCB digger. Their lawyer managed to keep his face straight while arguing that 'the Dome was always empty so there was no danger of hitting anyone inside' - but we suspect that it was a close-run thing.
The court was treated to another ingenious flight of fancy when the gang tried to pretend that there had been no robbery. They had just been 'conducting a feasability study for a film', which had got slightly out of hand. By then, it was more or less inevitable that the thieves would accused the police of setting up the whole thing 'to make the force look good'.
They also concocted a story involving Chechen or Russian gangsters who, allegedly, had threatened to kill the gang members and their families if they failed to pull off the so-called 'Robbery of the Millennium'. While it was true that two of those arrested in connection with the robbery are from Chechnya, the prosecution showed that both are in this country as illegal migrants rather than as representatives of a Chechen Mafia.
When their 'rap sheets' were unveiled after the guilty verdicts had been reached, it became clear that the accused were all career criminals with a talent for planning ingenious robberies. Their downfall at the Dome came as a result of sheer bad luck. A previous plan went wrong, the police put gang members under surveillance and that led to the gang charging into an elaborate ambush at the Dome.
There are other threads of the Millennium Dome Saga still to be unravelled, but many commentators expect that their ends will remain shrouded in mystery until the McBlair Cabinet Papers are released - those which had not been shredded in an attempt to preserve some remnants of his tattered reputation, cynics say.
filed by Jarvic Klute [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Dome Robbery Sentences In Detail
Walter Denisov, 48, of Bermondsey, London, was arrested inside the Millennium Diamond exhibit with sledgehammer. He was Alan Redmond's right-hand man. Convicted of conspiracy to rob, he received 22 years
Michael Ianbow, 57, of no fixed address was arrested inside the Millennium Diamond exhibit with sledgehammer. A career criminal and a member of a notorious family of East-London based drug traffickers, he was convicted of conspiracy to rob and received 18 years
Peter Burnside, 51, from Deal, Kent, was arrested inside the Dome. He was armed with smoke bombs and an ammonia spray and his job was to fend off resistance from the Dome's staff and members of the public. Convicted of conspiracy to rob, he received 15 years.
Eustace Carmaggio, 36, from Islington, London, remained outside Dome. He was armed with smoke bombs and an ammonia spray and it was his job to keep the escape route clear. He was convicted of conspiracy to rob and received 15 years.
Alan Redmond, 39, of no fixed address drove the JCB digger used to smash a plastic entrance door to the Dome. A career criminal and the mastermind of the raid, he was convicted of conspiracy to rob and received 22 years
Karl Malvern, 43, from Catford, London, was arrested in the decoy speedboat. He insisted that he was there under duress and he had no idea where he was supposed to take the boat or why. He was acquitted of conspiracy to rob but convicted conspiracy to steal and received 5 years.
filed by Saraman Zinovief [email@example.com]