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Has the Night Watcher fled Britain? Police fear violent shotgun-wielding burglar who sparked major manhunt after raiding 12 wealthy homes is now abroad with £10m haul
- Violent burglar who beat, terrified, and tied up his victims may have fled UK
- He wore a balaclava and carried a sawn-off shotgun, and knew layout of homes
- Police now believe his crime spree includes 12 robberies in the south of England between 2006 and 2017, with four other crimes under consideration
- More than 200 suspects have been eliminated by police but the MOD has not given access to its DNA database to investigate a possible Forces link
This fuzzy CCTV image from a robbery in Maidenhead is one of only two known images of the Night Watcher
A violent burglar dubbed the Night Watcher who robbed 12 wealthy homeowners of more than £10 million in a series of terrifying raids may be in hiding overseas.
Police believe the man, whose fearsome demeanour and use of a sawn-off shotgun have led police to speculate he could be a former soldier, may have died or fled the country after more than a year has passed without further incident.
The muscular six-foot man’s campaign of terror included the robbery of the Duke and Duchess of Richmond, whom he left tied up in their home Goodwood House in Sussex after stealing jewellery and heirlooms valued at more than £700,000.
The Night Watcher is known to spend weeks hiding in the grounds of his target addresses, noting every move of his potential victims, and during his crimes knows who will be at home and where in the property valuables and safes are located.
He strikes at night, ambushing the owners with a sawn-off shotgun and his face hidden under a balaclava. Victims are battered and bound up with plastic cable ties as he ransacks their safes.
Susan Morris (pictured left with her husband Stephen; and with her injuries, right) was at her computer when the burglar pounced on her, yelling: ‘I want the jewellery, take me to the safe’
The Night Watcher stole a £400,000 tiara, pictured, from Lord and Lady March after tying them up at their home, Goodwood House in Sussex
The theft of ‘treasured items’ left the victims ‘devastated’. Pictured: Lord and Lady March at the Goodwood Festival of Speed in 2014 (left) and with Hollywood star Tom Cruise (right)
This map shows the seven burglaries across the Home Counties that have been linked to the Night Watcher
In the manhunt for the Night Watcher police have identified and eliminated more than 200 suspects and reviewed more than 10,000 documents.
The investigation, once focused on seven raids in the Home Counties, has now linked five other offences to the same criminal.
The offences date from 2006 and 2017 and four other robberies which have ‘significant links’ to the Watcher’s modus operandi are ‘under consideration’ by police.
But yesterday Detective Chief Inspector Mark Preston of Surrey Police admitted police have ‘gone as far as they can’ on the available evidence.
He said: ‘Since we went public with the appeal last year we have identified a further five offences, in addition to the original seven, which we believe may have been carried out by the same person.
The Night Watcher has been linked to 12 robberies with a total value of £10m but may have fled the country
Injuries sustained by Susan Morris after a raid by an armed burglar in October 2017 at her house in Surrey
‘This is because of the very specific similarities in the ways they were committed, for example the use of ties, the commanding nature of the offender and the possession of a sawn-off shotgun.
‘I would like to re-iterate our thanks to the public and media for their support when we appealed for help last year. The appeal generated a vast amount of information which we have been working through over the last year.
‘I hope it is of reassurance that since the last offence occurred in October 2017, there have been no further offences identified that fit within this series.
‘This may be down to a number of hypotheses, including that the offender has left the country or has died.
‘We are under no illusions about the impact these cases have had on the victims and we have been absolutely committed to finding the person responsible.
‘We are confident that the lines of enquiry we have followed have been thoroughly tested and exhausted. At this stage we have gone as far as we can, but will of course re-examine these cases should any fresh evidence come to light.’
Detectives believe he may have formerly served in the Armed Forces and have a suspicious DNA sample they wish to test, but last year the Ministry of Defence denied access to its highly-sensitive DNA database until further evidence is put forward.
In January 2016 the Night Watcher raided Goodwood House, hitting the duke with a blunt instrument before escaping with loot worth some £700,000, including a ring Charles II gave to a favourite mistress who was an ancestor of the earl.
The duke and his wife remained tied up until the morning, when a member of staff arrived for work.
The noise of the break-in woke the duchess, 54, who went to investigate and ended up running into the robber outside her door.
The intruder then pushed her back into her bedroom and when the duke, 61, stepped forward to help her, the burglar hit him on the head with a ‘blunt instrument’, causing an injury to his ear.
The criminal then forced the duchess to open the safe and left the property with his haul. It is not known whether he was working with accomplices.
Along with the historic ring, he escaped with 40 antique items including an 1820 diamond tiara worth around £400,000 and a 19th century diamond necklace worth £200,000.
More than 40 items were stolen from Goodwood including emerald, diamond and sapphire rings, earrings, and necklaces as well as antique Rolex and Girard Perregaux watches
Several high-value watches, including a Rolex and Girard-Perregaux, were also taken, along with emerald, diamond and sapphire rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces.
Susan Morris, 61, whom the Watcher attacked in November 2017, was terrified she would be raped or killed during is attack.
She was at her computer in her £3.5m Surrey home when the burglar pounced on her, yelling: ‘I want the jewellery, take me to the safe’.
The 61-year-old suffered a broken jaw and lost a tooth as he beat her into submission, binding her hands with cable ties. She told how she believed he was professionally trained and knew how hard to hit her without knocking her out.
‘All I wanted to do is get him out of the house as quickly as possible, give him what he wanted and get him out,’ she said.
‘So I took him to the jewellery, gave him the jewellery but he said to me “get on the floor”. I thought he was going to rape me, I was very, very frightened.
‘I gave him a lot of jewellery from the safe and I said to him “You have got very valuable stuff there, now get out”.
‘But he wasn’t happy with that, he asked for more jewellery, I gave him some more jewellery and he then wanted more jewellery, and this is when he really got angry and started to hit me.
How the Night Watcher uses cable ties and ‘extreme violence’ to restrain his victims
Detectives have linked the series of million pound raids across the Home Counties by the ‘professionalism’ of the burglar’s method.
In each of the twelve raids, the burglar – dubbed the Night Watcher – has been alone and shown signs of having potentially ‘specialist knowledge and skills’ which suggest that he has military training and could be a current or former member of the armed forces or law enforcement.
The Night Watcher’s technique of using cable ties to bind the hands of his victims has been linked to military training
His technique of using cable ties to bind the hands of his victims has been linked to military training.
Other aspects of his modus operandi (MO or methods) include the use of a sawn-off shotgun and willingness to use violence to threaten victims, even when children are at home.
He also appears to be aware of house layout, who is at home and the location of safes and valuables.
He has targeted high-value jewellery and other valuables netting goods worth at least £1 million from each of the seven raids linked to him, although police believe he may have carried out further burglaries where residents were not at home at the time.
Detectives have found CCTV footage which has shown the thief staking out the properties for days and weeks prior to carrying out the raids, which often involved him entering doors which he had identified as being unlocked at certain times.
Surrey Police have released a description of the lone raider as white, stocky or muscular build, about 6ft tall with a south of England accent.
The seven raids linked to him were at Kingswood, Surrey, on November 12, 2014; Maidenhead, Berkshire, on January 21, 2015; Chichester, West Sussex on January 13, 2016; Sevenoaks, Kent, on November 22, 2016; Maidstone, Kent, in January 2017; Virginia Water, Surrey, on April 24, 2017 and Kingswood, Surrey, on October 26, 2017.
The five additional offences now linked to the Watcher all took place in Surrey between 2006 and 2015, but police are not releasing further details about these crimes.
‘He hit me very hard on my face, not enough to knock me out, he knew exactly how hard to hit me, he hit me three times on my face, it was very painful, I couldn’t believe the blows kept coming.
‘He got very angry as he was hitting me. I couldn’t get one ring and bracelet off and I thought he was going to cut my finger off to get them. I was really frightened.
‘One point when he was hitting me, with the gun pointing at me, at that moment I did actually think, this is it, it’s all over.’
She said he spoke well, without an accent, and appeared methodical and intelligent.
Describing the raid in Kingswood, Surrey, she added: ‘It all happened incredibly quickly, it is still very vivid though in my mind.
‘He came toward me and I realised he had a sawn-off shotgun and he grabbed hold of me, he was holding me the whole time of the burglary and never let go of me.
‘I have got bruises all over my body where he had hold of me.’
She and her husband Stephen – who arrived home to find her hiding in a bedroom still with her wrists tied – lost valuables worth hundreds of thousands of pounds.
In early 2018 the Metropolitan Police said it was possible the Night Watcher was also a prolific London thief dubbed the ‘Wimbledon Pwowler’, believed to be responsible for more than 200 thefts in south London.
Scotland Yard said they had examined the possibility of links but were not ‘formally linking’ the offences.
Detective Superintendent Guy Collings, of the Met, said: ‘When any such series of burglaries occur, we of course examine the possibility of links across force and county borders.
‘In this case, whilst there are some broad similarities, for example in terms of detailed preparation, no weapons or threats have ever been used in the Wimbledon series and we are not formally linking the two series at this stage.’
The Night Walker is described as white, with a stocky or muscular build, around six foot tall and speaks with a South of England accent.
Police say the pattern of his crimes includes operating alone, evidence of specialist knowledge and skills, use of a sawn-off shotgun and violence to threaten his victims, and an awareness of house layout, who is at home, and the location of safes and valuables.
Since an appeal for information in January of last year, there have been no further offences linked to the series and no arrests have been made.
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