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22 October 2010, 12:16 | Updated: 22 October 2010, 12:27
A convicted robber has pleaded guilty to holding terrified staff and customers hostage and making bomb threats at a bank in Surrey.
Unemployed Matthew Nutley, 36, of Brookside Avenue, Ashford, walked into the Church Road branch of Barclays Bank in Ashford, Surrey, shortly before 4pm on Monday June 28.
He was carrying a large gun – later found to be an imitation firearm - and shouted at terrified customers and staff to get down on the floor making repeated threats to “blow their heads off”. He forced the bank manager to lock the front doors and told hostages he was carrying a bomb which would explode if he let go of the trigger.
Once the doors were locked, he handed a can of black spray paint to a member of bank staff and ordered them to spray the windows to prevent police from being able to see what was going on inside. A customer was also given cable ties and ordered to tie other people up.
Nutley, who was wearing a white paper boiler suit with a hood and a mask over his mouth and nose, handed similar paper suits to some of the people inside so they would be dressed the same. He later told police it was his intention to leave with these hostages so armed officers would not know who to shoot at.
Surrey Police were called within minutes of Nutley entering the bank by members of the public and immediately dispatched armed response units. Church Road was cordoned off and shoppers and business owners were evacuated whilst trained hostage negotiators set up a base close-by and began speaking to Nutley by phone. During their discussions he demanded a total of £800,000 in cash and at one stage asked for a helicopter to be made ready for his escape.
As negotiators continued speaking to him, several hostages were allowed to leave until only three remained inside. Nutley, who had been drinking heavily from a bottle of vodka throughout the incident, was also armed with a large kitchen knife and threatened to cut off the fingers and ears of the remaining hostages if his demands were not met.
At this point the three remaining hostages seized an opportunity whilst his back was turned to escape. Moments later Nutley was talked into giving himself up to police outside. Just before 7pm he exited the bank with his arms in the air, smoking a cigarette, and was arrested by armed officers.
The imitation firearm and the knife were both found on the floor inside the bank and seized. An explosive team were called in to examine the device Nutley had claimed was a bomb but it was found to be a homemade hoax made of copper piping and wires bound together with electrical tape.
During his police interview, Nutley admitted he had been planning the robbery for months and had sprayed a child’s toy gun with black paint to make it look more realistic. On the morning of June 28 he drove to a DIY store and bought paper boiler suits, latex gloves, cable ties and paper masks. He parked his car, a red Volvo, around the corner from the bank where it was later recovered by police.
In interview he stated that he chose the branch in Ashford only because he knew the area well and if his demands had been met his intention had been to flee the bank taking some of the hostages with him and attempt to escape.
Nutley, who has a previous conviction for robbery at an off-licence in 2003, was charged with robbery, false imprisonment, possession of an imitation firearm with intent to commit robbery, two counts of making threats to kill, blackmail, possession of an offensive weapon and making a bomb hoax.
Today at Guildford Crown Court he pleaded guilty to all counts. He is due back in court to be sentenced on November 19.
Detective Superintendent Alan Sharp, Surrey Police’s Tactical Commander for the incident, said: “This job was one of the most challenging and fast moving I have ever had to command. We were dealing with the possibility of a very real threat to the lives of the bank staff and customers.
“Although we train for these situations they remain rare and I am extremely proud of the way teams at Surrey Police came together to respond. Everyone, from the staff who dealt with 999 calls, hostage negotiators and firearms officers used their skills to bring this incident to an end without serious injury to anyone.”
Detective Chief Inspector Chris Raymer, senior investigating officer for the incident, said: “This was an incredibly traumatic experience for those inside the bank who just minutes before had simply been going about their daily business.
“Whilst the gun and the bomb Nutley was carrying ultimately turned out to be fakes, to his hostages the threats he was making were very real. His behaviour was aggressive and volatile and they genuinely feared for their lives. To have put innocent people through such a terrifying ordeal was both selfish and cruel.
“It was not easy for many of those involved to give statements but their evidence was vital to show the full impact of Nutley’s actions that day.”