The Skull Cracker - Michael Wheatley - arrested in London

Michael Wheatley, aka the Skull Cracker

Michael Wheatley, aka the Skull Cracker

First published in News
Last updated

A fugitive armed robber dubbed the ''Skull Cracker'' has been caught after going on the run for the third time.

Michael Wheatley, 55, went missing when he was released on a temporary licence from an open prison in Kent on Saturday, and police were investigating whether he had robbed a building society in Surrey earlier today.

The force said that at 2pm Wheatley and another man, aged 53, were arrested in the Tower Hamlets area of east London and are now in police custody.

Detective Chief Inspector Ann Lisseman, from Kent Police, said: ''We are no longer looking for Michael Wheatley. We would like to thank our colleagues at Metropolitan Police Service, Surrey Police and the public for their assistance with our inquiries.''

The force said: ''Kent Police, in partnership with officers from the Metropolitan Police Service, have today arrested two men in east London on suspicion of conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

''On 3 May, Kent Police began a search for Michael Wheatley, who had failed to return to HMP Standford Hill after being released on temporary licence.

''At 2pm on 7 May, two men, aged 55 and 53, were arrested in the Tower Hamlets area and are now in police custody. The 55-year-old man was also arrested on suspicion of being unlawfully at large.''

Wheatley, who earned his nickname after pistol-whipping victims, had gone on the run twice in the past and each time staged a series of violent robberies before being caught and re-jailed.

Today, a branch of the Chelsea Building Society in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, was robbed, and Surrey and Kent Police were investigating whether Wheatley was the culprit.

Jodie Aston, 30, who works in a hair and beauty salon just yards from the building society, said police officers told her they knew who the suspect was.

She said: ''They came in and said the man that robbed the bank was the man that escaped from the open prison and it happened at 10.20am.

''We heard nothing until someone came in and told us. It's quite scary to think we were so close. It could have been in here.''

Barmaid Chloe Theobald, 26, said she was alerted to the incident when she was having lunch with her manager.

She said: ''The police said to my boss 'We think it's the Skull Cracker and he's been sighted in Sunbury'.

''It's quite scary. It's not something that happens every day that there's a man on the loose.''

Wheatley was first jailed in the 1980s for nine years for a post office raid, but fled in 1988 when he was given permission to go to hospital and failed to return.

He went on to commit a series of nine armed robberies, and was jailed again in 1989.

Three years later, authorities released him to go to the optician and again he went on the run, committing eight robberies. He was jailed for seven years in 1993.

The career criminal was released on parole in 2001, and within weeks was staging a series of raids on banks.

Prosecutors said he returned to a life of crime after a relationship with a woman he met while in custody turned sour, and she spent his money and ran up debt.

At the Old Bailey hearing, lawyers revealed that, when asked his occupation by a custody officer, he replied: ''Armed robber.''

He was given 13 life sentences in 2002, and was ordered to serve a minimum of eight years before being considered for release.

The suspect in today's robbery burst into the building society in The Parade, Staines Road, at around 10.20am and threatened staff with a handgun, before being given money from a safe and running away.

Police said they do not know whether the gun was real or imitation.

Wheatley was released on a temporary licence from Standford Hill open prison on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, and is thought to have boarded the 9.20am high- speed train from Sittingbourne, which was heading to Stratford International station.

Police were called when he failed to return to the prison at 6pm and a specialist team of officers, headed by Ms Lisseman, pieced together a timeline of his movements.

There was a confirmed sighting of Wheatley at 7.55pm on Monday in the Strawberry Hill area of Twickenham, and several homes were searched but he was not found.

Comments (16)

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4:37pm Wed 7 May 14

hmw says...

"Jodie Aston, 30, who works in a hair and beauty salon just yards from the building society, said...'We heard nothing until someone came in and told us. It's quite scary to think we were so close. It could have been in here.'''

Ha ha, yeah right: "It's a stick up! Hand over all your shampoo and conditioner"
"Jodie Aston, 30, who works in a hair and beauty salon just yards from the building society, said...'We heard nothing until someone came in and told us. It's quite scary to think we were so close. It could have been in here.''' Ha ha, yeah right: "It's a stick up! Hand over all your shampoo and conditioner" hmw
  • Score: 10

4:50pm Wed 7 May 14

normal1965 says...

BANG BANG YOUR KNICKED MY SON,LOL
BANG BANG YOUR KNICKED MY SON,LOL normal1965
  • Score: 0

5:02pm Wed 7 May 14

sparkster says...

perhaps this time the idiots will think before putting the scum back in an open prison
perhaps this time the idiots will think before putting the scum back in an open prison sparkster
  • Score: 4

5:09pm Wed 7 May 14

bigfella777 says...

Does he have to be given this vile name? Why can't you just put violent criminal escapee arrested?
Does he have to be given this vile name? Why can't you just put violent criminal escapee arrested? bigfella777
  • Score: -2

5:19pm Wed 7 May 14

Outside of the Box says...

sparkster wrote:
perhaps this time the idiots will think before putting the scum back in an open prison
The system will always let long serving criminals due for release go to open prison, all his life sentence's ran concurrent so he was only ever going to serve a maximum 14 years behind to the door and the rest of his life on license from jail.

I'm afraid rehabilitation has clearly not worked in his case, he may not fancy life on the out and see's absconding and committing further armed robberies as a way of remaining in prison, if that is the case the parole should consider this when recommending sending to a D category (open prison) jail in future, he has pulled the wool over the Prison services eyes this time.
[quote][p][bold]sparkster[/bold] wrote: perhaps this time the idiots will think before putting the scum back in an open prison[/p][/quote]The system will always let long serving criminals due for release go to open prison, all his life sentence's ran concurrent so he was only ever going to serve a maximum 14 years behind to the door and the rest of his life on license from jail. I'm afraid rehabilitation has clearly not worked in his case, he may not fancy life on the out and see's absconding and committing further armed robberies as a way of remaining in prison, if that is the case the parole should consider this when recommending sending to a D category (open prison) jail in future, he has pulled the wool over the Prison services eyes this time. Outside of the Box
  • Score: 6

5:33pm Wed 7 May 14

Kirsty666 says...

Nicked untill the next time...
Nicked untill the next time... Kirsty666
  • Score: -1

6:11pm Wed 7 May 14

funchal says...

The people that put him in an open prison should be sacked. Clearly his past history is enough to lock him up for life and I mean life!
The people that put him in an open prison should be sacked. Clearly his past history is enough to lock him up for life and I mean life! funchal
  • Score: 0

6:12pm Wed 7 May 14

IronLady2010 says...

Our Justice system needs a major shake up.

I voted for Cameron as he promised to be tough on crime, he lied and is being a wet lettuce and this proves it.

I'm really fed up with the current system, more and more criminals are being caught and let off.

We need more prisons and the Law to be changed. A life sentence should mean just that, no parole for good behaviour etc.

Imagine if all criminals were locked up? Would we need half as many Police?

Remember the Police can only arrest and put people before the Court and they put the same people time and time again.

Lock them up they are a waste of breath.
Our Justice system needs a major shake up. I voted for Cameron as he promised to be tough on crime, he lied and is being a wet lettuce and this proves it. I'm really fed up with the current system, more and more criminals are being caught and let off. We need more prisons and the Law to be changed. A life sentence should mean just that, no parole for good behaviour etc. Imagine if all criminals were locked up? Would we need half as many Police? Remember the Police can only arrest and put people before the Court and they put the same people time and time again. Lock them up they are a waste of breath. IronLady2010
  • Score: -1

8:50pm Wed 7 May 14

Millie0505 says...

Wow he escaped previously by being allowed a visit to the dentists, didn't come back, a visit to hospital, didn't come back, and still they haven't learned their lesson! And the most unbelievably stupid part about all this is the fact that every time he has escaped he has gone on a robbing, pistol whipping mission!! Has no one tried to think outside the box here and maybe concluded that this guy is beyond rehabilitation? Not wanting to sound nasty, but what do they think will happen on his next escapade or official release? Go volunteer at the local petting zoo? Deliver meals to the elderly? Get a bank job maybe? Oh........no sorry he's done that one already! Seriously! The justice system is deplorable in this country, open prison and day release for guys like this, 4 years for cold blooded murderers, 12 years for paedophiles that rip peoples lives to shreds? Shameful. Xx
Wow he escaped previously by being allowed a visit to the dentists, didn't come back, a visit to hospital, didn't come back, and still they haven't learned their lesson! And the most unbelievably stupid part about all this is the fact that every time he has escaped he has gone on a robbing, pistol whipping mission!! Has no one tried to think outside the box here and maybe concluded that this guy is beyond rehabilitation? Not wanting to sound nasty, but what do they think will happen on his next escapade or official release? Go volunteer at the local petting zoo? Deliver meals to the elderly? Get a bank job maybe? Oh........no sorry he's done that one already! Seriously! The justice system is deplorable in this country, open prison and day release for guys like this, 4 years for cold blooded murderers, 12 years for paedophiles that rip peoples lives to shreds? Shameful. Xx Millie0505
  • Score: 4

8:52pm Wed 7 May 14

Millie0505 says...

Millie0505 wrote:
Wow he escaped previously by being allowed a visit to the dentists, didn't come back, a visit to hospital, didn't come back, and still they haven't learned their lesson! And the most unbelievably stupid part about all this is the fact that every time he has escaped he has gone on a robbing, pistol whipping mission!! Has no one tried to think outside the box here and maybe concluded that this guy is beyond rehabilitation? Not wanting to sound nasty, but what do they think will happen on his next escapade or official release? Go volunteer at the local petting zoo? Deliver meals to the elderly? Get a bank job maybe? Oh........no sorry he's done that one already! Seriously! The justice system is deplorable in this country, open prison and day release for guys like this, 4 years for cold blooded murderers, 12 years for paedophiles that rip peoples lives to shreds? Shameful. Xx
Sorry, optition** not dentist x
[quote][p][bold]Millie0505[/bold] wrote: Wow he escaped previously by being allowed a visit to the dentists, didn't come back, a visit to hospital, didn't come back, and still they haven't learned their lesson! And the most unbelievably stupid part about all this is the fact that every time he has escaped he has gone on a robbing, pistol whipping mission!! Has no one tried to think outside the box here and maybe concluded that this guy is beyond rehabilitation? Not wanting to sound nasty, but what do they think will happen on his next escapade or official release? Go volunteer at the local petting zoo? Deliver meals to the elderly? Get a bank job maybe? Oh........no sorry he's done that one already! Seriously! The justice system is deplorable in this country, open prison and day release for guys like this, 4 years for cold blooded murderers, 12 years for paedophiles that rip peoples lives to shreds? Shameful. Xx[/p][/quote]Sorry, optition** not dentist x Millie0505
  • Score: 0

9:54pm Wed 7 May 14

userds5050 says...

sparkster wrote:
perhaps this time the idiots will think before putting the scum back in an open prison
Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Moving long term prisonsers to an open prison as they approach their release date is proven to reduce reoffending rates.
[quote][p][bold]sparkster[/bold] wrote: perhaps this time the idiots will think before putting the scum back in an open prison[/p][/quote]Hindsight is a wonderful thing. Moving long term prisonsers to an open prison as they approach their release date is proven to reduce reoffending rates. userds5050
  • Score: 0

9:59pm Wed 7 May 14

userds5050 says...

IronLady2010 wrote:
Our Justice system needs a major shake up.

I voted for Cameron as he promised to be tough on crime, he lied and is being a wet lettuce and this proves it.

I'm really fed up with the current system, more and more criminals are being caught and let off.

We need more prisons and the Law to be changed. A life sentence should mean just that, no parole for good behaviour etc.

Imagine if all criminals were locked up? Would we need half as many Police?

Remember the Police can only arrest and put people before the Court and they put the same people time and time again.

Lock them up they are a waste of breath.
The problem is if you lock people up for life (and life meaning life) for offences like armed robbery ect... then the punishment is the same for much more serious offences like murder. So what do you think the armed robbers going to do once he's cornered?
[quote][p][bold]IronLady2010[/bold] wrote: Our Justice system needs a major shake up. I voted for Cameron as he promised to be tough on crime, he lied and is being a wet lettuce and this proves it. I'm really fed up with the current system, more and more criminals are being caught and let off. We need more prisons and the Law to be changed. A life sentence should mean just that, no parole for good behaviour etc. Imagine if all criminals were locked up? Would we need half as many Police? Remember the Police can only arrest and put people before the Court and they put the same people time and time again. Lock them up they are a waste of breath.[/p][/quote]The problem is if you lock people up for life (and life meaning life) for offences like armed robbery ect... then the punishment is the same for much more serious offences like murder. So what do you think the armed robbers going to do once he's cornered? userds5050
  • Score: 3

10:47pm Wed 7 May 14

BeyondImagination says...

He didn't just get life, he got 13 life sentences. No doubt he'll get another long sentence, so will be eligible for parole in a year or so then let out to rob another bank or building society..
He didn't just get life, he got 13 life sentences. No doubt he'll get another long sentence, so will be eligible for parole in a year or so then let out to rob another bank or building society.. BeyondImagination
  • Score: -2

6:29am Thu 8 May 14

paraboy says...

it does make you think the person who said yea he is safe is he safe to to do that in his job it is very easy in the prison to forget what they are and what they have done
it does make you think the person who said yea he is safe is he safe to to do that in his job it is very easy in the prison to forget what they are and what they have done paraboy
  • Score: 0

9:45am Thu 8 May 14

userds5050 says...

BeyondImagination wrote:
He didn't just get life, he got 13 life sentences. No doubt he'll get another long sentence, so will be eligible for parole in a year or so then let out to rob another bank or building society..
13 life sentences to run concurrently, with a minimum 8 years to be spent in jail.
[quote][p][bold]BeyondImagination[/bold] wrote: He didn't just get life, he got 13 life sentences. No doubt he'll get another long sentence, so will be eligible for parole in a year or so then let out to rob another bank or building society..[/p][/quote]13 life sentences to run concurrently, with a minimum 8 years to be spent in jail. userds5050
  • Score: 1

1:19pm Thu 8 May 14

B. L. says...

Millie0505 wrote:
Millie0505 wrote:
Wow he escaped previously by being allowed a visit to the dentists, didn't come back, a visit to hospital, didn't come back, and still they haven't learned their lesson! And the most unbelievably stupid part about all this is the fact that every time he has escaped he has gone on a robbing, pistol whipping mission!! Has no one tried to think outside the box here and maybe concluded that this guy is beyond rehabilitation? Not wanting to sound nasty, but what do they think will happen on his next escapade or official release? Go volunteer at the local petting zoo? Deliver meals to the elderly? Get a bank job maybe? Oh........no sorry he's done that one already! Seriously! The justice system is deplorable in this country, open prison and day release for guys like this, 4 years for cold blooded murderers, 12 years for paedophiles that rip peoples lives to shreds? Shameful. Xx
Sorry, optition** not dentist x
Perhaps you should see one so you can read a dictionary. :)
[quote][p][bold]Millie0505[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]Millie0505[/bold] wrote: Wow he escaped previously by being allowed a visit to the dentists, didn't come back, a visit to hospital, didn't come back, and still they haven't learned their lesson! And the most unbelievably stupid part about all this is the fact that every time he has escaped he has gone on a robbing, pistol whipping mission!! Has no one tried to think outside the box here and maybe concluded that this guy is beyond rehabilitation? Not wanting to sound nasty, but what do they think will happen on his next escapade or official release? Go volunteer at the local petting zoo? Deliver meals to the elderly? Get a bank job maybe? Oh........no sorry he's done that one already! Seriously! The justice system is deplorable in this country, open prison and day release for guys like this, 4 years for cold blooded murderers, 12 years for paedophiles that rip peoples lives to shreds? Shameful. Xx[/p][/quote]Sorry, optition** not dentist x[/p][/quote]Perhaps you should see one so you can read a dictionary. :) B. L.
  • Score: 0

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