Michael Wheatley appeared at Redhill Magistrates Court
Notorious ‘Skull Cracker’, Michael Wheatley, appeared at Redhill Magistrates Court this morning after roaming South West London and Surrey for four days last week.
Wheatley, 55, was charged with possession of an imitation firearm and armed robbery while being unlawfully at large, after he went on-the-run from an open prison in Kent.
He carried out the robbery after initially going missing on Saturday, while on a one day temporary licence from the Category D HMP Standford Hill on the Isle of Sheppey.
Prosecutor Darren Matravers said: “He didn’t return and so was unlawfully at large.”
Given his nickname because he brutally pistol-whips his victims, Wheatley was flanked by four guards in stab vests as he stood in the dock.
Police requested he remained handcuffed throughout, and wearing a grey t-shirt he spoke only to confirm his name.
Wheatley was spotted in Twickenham on Monday evening, carried out an £18,350 raid on a Chelsea Building Society in Sunbury on Wednesday, before being detained in Tower Hamlets, east London.
Authorities were widely criticised for allowing Wheatley to leave. This was the third time he has gone on the run after being allowed out on temporary release since his initial imprisonment in the 1980s.
He went on to commit a series of armed robberies before being recaptured on each previous occasion.
Temporary license is usually used as a tool to help offenders reintegrate into communities ahead of release.
Since the incident there have been calls from ministers to stiffen-up the licence scheme so convicts are subjected to more meticulous risk assessments and tagged.
When he was convicted and sentenced in 2002 to the 13 life sentences for armed raids he is presently serving, Wheatley gave his occupation as “armed robber” to the custody officer.
He will be remanded in custody until he appears at Guildford Crown Court on May 29 at 10.00am.
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