The inside man or just a victim?
BBC Sunday, 16 November, 2003
A former policeman jailed for his involvement in Europe’s biggest cash-in-transit robbery was recently granted leave to appeal against his conviction. BBC News Online spoke to his girlfriend, who is determined to clear his name.
Security van driver Graham Huckerby was the alleged “inside man” when robbers got away with £6.6m in 29 cash bags from the Midland Bank Clearing Centre in Salford, Greater Manchester on 3 July 1995.
In March last year he was jailed for 14 years for conspiracy to rob. He was also ordered to pay £55,000 or serve an extra 18 months.
But his partner, Luci Roper, says he denies being the inside man and is as much a victim as the bank.
She said the case had ramifications for all those working on security vans.
“If Graham can be convicted then anyone can be. For him it was a case of not being able to prove that he wasn’t the inside man.”
Huckerby, 43, from Prestbury, Greater Manchester, and his co-defendant James Power, 61, from nearby Bury, recently had their case referred back to the Court of Appeal.
On the day in question Huckerby was inside the van when his colleague went to collect money.
His colleague usually returned within seconds but on this occasion he took longer.
Suddenly a masked man armed with a gun knocked on the window and demanded to be let in, saying they were holding his colleague hostage.
Ms Roper said Huckerby’s training told him always to put people before money, so he agreed.
He thought the rest of the gang had bundled his colleague into the back of the van.
Huckerby drove off but was told to stop a few hundred yards later.
He was tied to a lamp-post by the gang, who escaped with the cash.
He was so terrified he wet himself during his ordeal.
Only five months before he had witnessed another colleague being hit over the head with a sledgehammer and stabbed in the chest.
It was only after his trial that it was discovered that Huckerby was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of the first attack.
Greater Manchester Police took four years to arrest Huckerby.
He was accused of being responsible for an “inside job” but there was scant evidence of him profiting financially.
The police pointed to £1,000 which had been paid into his bank account.
He points out that such a sum – he says it was a repayment from a friend he had leant some money to – would have been a paltry return from a £6.6m raid.
His ex-girlfriend, Claire Shaw, was questioned four times in 36 hours by police as her two-year-old daughter was cared for by relatives.
In the first three interviews she insisted neither she or Huckerby knew anything about the robbery.
But on the fourth occasion she said he had returned from work one day in 1995 with £1,000 and had also told her he was “involved” in the robbery.
At the trial Ms Shaw said she did not mean to infer Huckerby was in on the robbery and added that police had “bullied” her into making the statement.
Ms Roper said the main evidence against him was phone records connecting him with Power.
But she said he was simply ringing Power up to ask him if he wanted to go for a drink.
She said there was no real evidence Power was connected to the robbery.
Despite a four-year investigation, known as Operation Volga, none of the robbers were ever captured and none of the money recovered. Two other men were acquitted.
A £250,000 reward for information leading to the retrieval of the haul is still on offer.
The police had claimed Huckerby lived a “jet set lifestyle” after the robbery and flew all over the world.
But in reality he has only ever been abroad twice – once to the United States and once to Spain.
Huckerby was initially told his application for leave to appeal had been refused but 10 days later the authorities admitted it was a clerical error – the word “referred” had been misread as “refused”.
A Greater Manchester Police spokeswoman said she could not comment until the appeal was heard.
The appeal is expected to be heard early in the New Year.