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The Backhoe Loader that hit the Dome & the Headlines

by Nick Drew  |  Mon 30 Sep 2013

The Backhoe Loader that hit the Dome & the Headlines

In what was without doubt one of the most daring and ambitious robbery attempts ever staged, a gang of thieves used a stolen JCB 3CX to smash their way into the Millennium Dome in a “James Bond” style smash and grab run that didn’t quite go to plan. At the controls of the JCB which had been stolen some months before was Ray Betson, he was joined in the cab by three more gang members, Bill Cockram, Bob Adams and Aldo Ciarrocchi, who were all kitted out in body armour and gas masks. The machine was a Project 9 JCB 3CX similar to the model seen here.

When he received the order, via a two way radio, Betson accelerated through the outer fence and smashed into the dome, heading towards the Money Zone where the diamond display was being held. The other members in the cab were busy lobbing out smoke bombs, to screen themselves and cause panic and confusion.  

Apparently De Beers had spent nearly £2m on security, but the gang had an ingenious and simple way to tackle the vault's armoured glass. The gang had discovered that by firing a nail gun into the sheet, it warmed its plastic backing, allowing sledgehammers to be used to smash through in 27 seconds rather than the expected 30 minutes. But as Cockram prepared to reach in and grab their prize, police, who had been keeping up surveillance on the gang for some months, swooped in. Trapped inside the vault's concrete walls, Cockram and Adams fell to the floor.

Outside, Betson and Ciarrocchi were already being handcuffed. The raid was big headline news back in the day and the famous Evening Standard newspaper featured the event in its cartoon. Julian had bizarrely managed to get gang member Aldo Ciarrocchi, to autograph the cartoon before Mr Ciarrocchi went off to serve his sentence.  

Of course all this action was great publicity for the great British product JCB, and never one to miss out on a PR opportunity the Staffordshire based company took out a piece of genius advertising in the national press, featuring the iconic JCB 3CX product. The actual 3CX that was used in the raid was eventually put up for auction, at JCB’s biannual sell off of machines and spare parts, after the company had taken possession of the machine from the insurers. 

 We thank Julian for sharing these items, which he said were destined for the dustbin, with us here on the Digger Man Blog.            

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