The armed mob carrying sawn-off shotguns that were responsible for a bank robbery in Aberdeen are still at large after 25 years.
The £15,000 reward money is gathering dust because the three men got away after turning over a quiet branch of the Clydesdale in Cults.
The masked men escaped with £20,000 on June 27 1996 but had to abandon the notes when the security device activated and sprayed them with red dye.
The men panicked and threw the rigged pack from the getaway car which had been stolen a few days earlier from Magdalen Yard Road in Dundee.
The vehicle was found abandoned shortly afterwards in a forest walk car park nearby.
That was it.
They were gone.
Detective Inspector Eric Leslie was brought in to lead the investigation.
Here was a man who got results.
DI Leslie had steered some of the biggest criminal investigations in the north-east since joining the police in 1975 including the first armed robbery in Peterhead.
“At this stage all we know is the car came from Dundee,” he said.
“It is quite possible there is a Dundee connection with this crime.
“If anyone sees someone with peculiar red markings on their clothes or body, it may well be that these are the people we are looking for.
“I ask anyone who sees such markings not to accept any explanations and treat them as suspicious.
“These men are considered extremely dangerous.
“Do not approach them.”
The red dye was virtually indelible and will have stuck to clothing and skin.
Using computer software, with input from witness information, police issued E-fits of the three suspects and pleaded with the public to stop them striking again.
At least one of the men involved in the Cults robbery spoke with a Dundee accent.
He was described as 6ft, in his early 30s, well built, with short fair hair.
He had a short fringe and designer stubble.
A reward of £15,000 was then offered by the Clydesdale while staff and customers who witnessed the raid were given counselling for post-traumatic stress.
DI Leslie was convinced the men were preparing a second robbery after being forced to dump the booby-trapped stacks of notes 100 yards from the bank.
“We have had a fair response to the E-fits,” he said.
“We’re very grateful to those who have got in touch, but there is someone out there who knows these guys.
“I want that person to help us catch them as they will try again.
“They got nothing from their last attempt and they remain armed and dangerous.”
Grampian Police had quite a few meetings with their Tayside colleagues following the robbery.
But then things took a turn.
That’s because, on August 19, two men armed with a handgun and a knife walked in the Clydesdale branch in Dundee and made off with a four-figure sum.
The Dundee raiders used Magdalen Yard Road to swap their getaway cars.
That’s where the getaway car had been stolen in the Cults raid although police would eventually rule out a link despite the similarities at first glance.
Crimewatch reconstructed the Cults job and agreed to broadcast it on September 3 with two new pieces of information being highlighted by presenter Nick Ross.
One concerned baseball caps which were believed to be worn by the robbers.
The other was that a witness saw the stolen wine-coloured Ford Sierra estate travelling in convoy with a C-registered ocean blue Ford Sierra out of Cults.
It was thought the robbers, with a getaway driver, disappeared in the other vehicle.
DI Leslie had to move heaven and earth to secure permission for the programme to broadcast video footage from the raid – the first time such film had been screened on television in Scotland – but his perseverance paid off when viewers called in large numbers to offer names for the suspects, and the practice is now routine.
Grampian Police received more than 50 calls in Aberdeen following the reconstruction of the robbery and there were well over 100 to the BBC studios in London.
Some gave possible names of the men involved.
Several more provided interesting bits of information.
One or two even put names to all three E-fit likenesses.
The leads provided in both offices were then evaluated and followed up.
DI Leslie said the response from the public “regenerated” the investigation and gave him “a great deal of hope that we will be able to bring this inquiry to a conclusion”.
He said: “We are following a positive line of inquiry and the investigation is still ongoing.
“We have a number of officers working on it on a regular basis and there are regular discussions about it as well.
“I am confident it will be brought to a conclusion in the not-too-distant future.”
The Cults bank had been the scene of a similar robbery in 1994 for which former Aberdeen student Robert Cadiz was later jailed for six years.
A female member of staff was on duty during both incidents.
She was off for five months with post-traumatic stress following the second incident.
She was given a transfer to another city branch of the Clydesdale and returned in November following post-robbery support and specialist counselling.
A Grampian Police spokeswoman said: “We are still following positive lines of enquiry.”
But nothing changed.
The investigation was quietly scaled down towards the end of 1996.
No-one has ever been arrested for the robbery.
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