Beds, Herts & Bucks

Bank siege: Three Luton men plead guilty to conspiracy

Three men from Luton have pleaded guilty to a bomb plot and conspiracy to steal £160,000 from a bank in June.

Muhammed Qasim Salam, 23, told staff at Watford Co-op Bank where he worked a bomb was strapped to his leg, creating an incident that shut the town centre.

Police, negotiators and the bomb squad sealed off the Market Street area.

Salam was later arrested with accomplices Imran Khalifa and Faizan Rehman, both 23, and the money was recovered, St Albans Crown Court heard.

Safe keys

Salam, of Bracknell Close; Khalifa, of Maidenhead Road; and Rehman, of Havelock Road; all in Luton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal and conspiracy to commit a bomb hoax.

Customer services worker Salam had keys to the bank safe and hatched the plan in May.

The court heard that in the early hours of 2 June the three drove to the branch manager's home in Staines, Middlesex, where they punctured his tyres so he could not get into work.

Salam also made sure another male worker would not be present by making arrangements for him to visit another branch.

After arriving at the bank he handed over £160,000 to Rehman who arrived for a "meeting".

Bomb squad

The money was taken to Khalifa waiting in a getaway car and Salam dialled 999 saying someone had come into the bank and strapped a bomb to his leg and it would go off if he tried to remove it.

Police surrounded the bank after the call and specialist armed units and the bomb squad arrived.

The court heard that after a three-and-a-half hour siege, Salam gave himself up.

Judge Andrew Bright QC described their crimes as "a bank robbery without violence".

The defendants were said to be intelligent young men from respectable families with no previous convictions.

They are due back for sentencing next week.

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