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WE'RE CLOSING IN; pounds 50m heist cops shoot out car's tyres during swoop on suspects.

Byline: By Neville Dean

POLICE hunting the gang who pulled off Britain's biggest robbery yesterday shot out the tyres of a car as they swooped on two suspects.

Neighbours said they heard shots as a BMW was brought to a halt and its male driver pulled out and arrested. Another man was held nearby.

A police spokesman could not confirm firearms had been used during the arrests but bullet holes were clearly visible in the tyres of a car which was taken away for forensic examination.

Retired architect Doug Gilbert described seeing two men being led away after plain-clothed officers stopped a car in the road outside his home near Whitstable, Kent.

Doug, 78, said: "The police started surrounding a car with weapons and two people were taken away. The car was put on a low-loader.

"It would appear that there were shots fired but it didn't sound like a normal gun. It was a heavy sound.

"Something was fired, it must have been. At first, I thought there had been a car accident but it clearly wasn't, having seen these chaps with what looked like firearms."

The swoop came as police con-firmed making six arrests over the raid at the Securitas depot in Tonbridge which may have netted pounds 50million.

Police hunting the gang who pulled off the robbery in the early hours of Wednesday made a number of raids across Kent on Saturday.

A man aged 49 was held over the discovery of a white Transit van - containing a haul of cash, guns, balaclavas and flak jackets - in a hotel car park in Ashford on Friday.

Two men aged 55 and 33 were also arrested in a separate raid in Maidstone. All three were later released on police bail.

Armed police also raided a house - thought to be empty - near Tun-bridge Wells which neighbours said belonged to a professional kick-boxer.

Forensic teams were combing the property for clues last night.

The developments came as Kent's assistant chief constable Adrian Leppard said that the speed of the investigation appeared to be forcing the gang into mistakes.

Mr Leppard said: "Leaving firearms, clothing and cash in the van suggests to me that there are people in the gang who are now making mistakes. They are under pressure and we want to keep the pressure on. I am encouraged at this stage by the progress we are making. The net is closing in."

He revealed the cash found in the van amounted to pounds 1.3million.

Police are still hunting for the white Renault lorry believed to have been used to shift the rest of the haul.

Leppard also said the forensic examination at the Securitas depot was complete and the company were working out exactly how much cash had been taken.

The police chief also passed on a message from Colin Dixon, the manager who was kidnapped with his wife and son during the raid.

Mr Dixon, 51, spoke of the terror he and his family had experienced and described the ordeal as the "worst night of my life".

CAPTION(S):

GUN DRAMA: The car - with bullet holes in its tyres, inset picture - was taken away for forensic examination after the armed swoop KENT NEWS AND PICTURES
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 27, 2006
Words:537
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