Vicious bank robber may have fled to Ireland

UK police are searching for ‘the Skullcracker’, after he failed to return from day release

Undated handout photo issued by the Metropolitan Police in 2002 of Michael Wheatley performing an armed raid.

Undated handout photo issued by the Metropolitan Police in 2002 of Michael Wheatley performing an armed raid.

Tue, May 6, 2014, 20:31

The Garda Síochána have been contacted by British police concerned that an escaped bank robber known as “the Skullcracker” because of the viciousness of his attacks, could have fled to Ireland.

The alarm was raised on Saturday evening after Michael Wheatley, aged 55, failed to return to Standford Hill on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent after he had been given a temporary day release.

He was given 13 life sentences in 2002 for a series of brutal raids on banks and building societies, during which he pistol-whipped a 73-year-old woman and put a gun to the head of another woman.

Tonight, Detective Chief Inspector Ann Lisseman, who is heading the hunt or Wheatley, said they were aware that the convict once planned to live in Ireland, and in fact, may have briefly done so.

“We are aware that Michael Wheatley has past associations in Ireland, Cheshire and North Wales and we are working with numerous police forces as part of our efforts to find him,” she said.

Wheatley had previously served a long sentence for a string of robberies earlier in his life before he began his 2002 spree - sparked, his trial was told, by the need to find money to fund a move to Ireland with a woman he met in prison.

Before his capture in 2002, police openly expressed fears that Wheatley would kill someone unless he was found, though he was captured shortly afterwards following a tip-off.

Wheatley is believed to have travelled to London from Sittingbourne last Saturday. Meanwhile, Metropolitan Police officers rushed to a house in Twickenham on Monday evening after a confirmed sighting, but he had gone by the time they got there.