Armed robber "Skull Cracker" found by police

Recaptured: Michael Wheatley

Recaptured: Michael Wheatley

First published in News
Last updated
by , Reporter

The escaped armed robber nicknamed Skull Cracker was re-captured by police following searches in Teddington and Twickenham this week.

Michael Wheatley, 55, was sighted in Strawberry Hill, near Twickenham, on Monday, May 5, at 7.55pm.

Police searched the area on Monday night but he was not caught.

Following an armed raid at the Chelsea Building Society in Sunbury two days later, officers searched Teddington high street, Broom Road and near the Anglers pub for the absconded prisoner.

Kent Police are currently investigating whether the raid was linked to the hunt for Wheatley.

Skull Cracker was eventually captured in Tower Hamlets in east London on Wednesday afternoon.

A police spokesman said: “At 2pm, on May 7, two men, aged 55 and 53, were arrested in the Tower Hamlets area and are now in police custody.

“The 55 year-old man was also arrested on suspicion of being unlawfully at large.”

Wheatley was given 13 life sentences in 2002 for a series of violent raids on banks and building societies.

The crimes were committed between 2001 and 2002, at a range of locations from Southampton to Hertfordshire, while on parole from a 27-year sentence for other robberies.

Police said he failed to return to HMP Standford Hill open prison on the Isle of Sheppey.

He earned the now-infamous nickname Skull Cracker after pistol-whipping his victims.

Richmond resident John Walsh told the Richmond and Twickenham Times of his shock when he became embroiled in the search during a late night stroll past Petersham Meadows.

He said: “I had been feeding the ducks on Monday night when I saw a gang of people coming towards me - it was the police.

“As I walked past them the said ‘stop there, put your hands up in the air’ and they wanted to know what I was doing.

“They said I looked like him - one minute you are feeding the ducks and the next minute you have four armed police officers pointing guns at you, it’s just not what you expect.”

Wheatley’s disappearance has prompted ministers to launch a major review of the case, including a broader assessment of the release on temporary licence process.

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