'Skull Cracker' Michael Wheatley in court over robbery

Michael Wheatley Image copyright PA
Image caption Michael Wheatley was remanded in custody

A man has appeared in court accused of armed robbery while being on the run from an open prison in Kent.

Michael Wheatley, 55, known as the "Skull Cracker", was arrested in London after Wednesday's raid on the Chelsea Building Society in Sunbury in Surrey.

He is charged with robbery of £18,350, possessing an imitation firearm and being unlawfully at large.

Redhill Magistrates remanded him in custody to appear at Guildford Crown Court on 29 May.

Kevin Perry, 53, of West India Dock Road, is due to appear in court later accused of assisting an offender, perverting the course of justice and handling stolen goods.

'Didn't return'

Mr Wheatley spoke only to confirm his name during the five-minute hearing.

He was flanked by four police officers in stab vests and was handcuffed throughout the hearing.

Prosecutor Darren Matravers said Mr Wheatley carried out the robbery after initially going missing on Saturday while on temporary licence for one day from the Category D HMP Standford Hill on the Isle of Sheppey.

He said: "He didn't return and so was unlawfully at large."

He had been due to return to the prison at 18:00 BST on Saturday.

No-one was hurt during the raid on the building society branch in Staines Road, but a spokesman for the company said staff had been left shaken.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The Chelsea Building Society in Sunbury was robbed on Wednesday

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