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Raider plotting transit heists is first to be convicted by smart’water

PUBLISHED: 22:58 18 July 2008 | UPDATED: 13:28 05 October 2010

Lwanga (top) and caught in CCTV (above) laundering cash in a bookie's

Lwanga (top) and caught in CCTV (above) laundering cash in a bookie's

A RAIDER organising a string of security heists has become the first robber in London convicted using state-of-the art SmartWater’ technology in a Flying Squad investigation. Ali Lwanga was found guilty of conspiracy to rob following a string of hold-ups across East London, when he appeared in the dock today (July 18). Evidence was presented showing how SmartWater, an invisible liquid only seen under ultra-violet light, played a crucial role in linking him to specific raids

A RAIDER organising a string of security heists has become the first robber in London convicted using state-of-the art 'SmartWater' technology in a Flying Squad investigation.

Ali Lwanga was found guilty of conspiracy to rob following a string of hold-ups across East London, when he appeared in the dock at Wood Green Crown court today (July 18).

Evidence was presented during Lwanga's trial on how SmartWater, an invisible liquid which can only be seen under ultra-violet light, played a crucial role in linking him to specific raids.

The chemical was installed in the blue security dye in cashboxes, which meant recovered stolen money could easily be traced back to a number of robberies on transit vehicles.

The 21-year-old from Canning Town was convicted of conspiring to rob a security van as it made a delivery on January 18.

He recruited four schoolboys aged 14, 15 and two 16 to carry out the raids. They have already admitted robbery charges and are awaiting sentence.

Flying Squad officers were watching the gang spending the morning looking for a van to rob.

The gang finally settled on a vehicle along the A10 Great Cambridge Road at the Cineworld cinema in Enfield.

Three of the youths were in a stolen Renault while Lwanga directed operations from a Vauxhall Astra with the fourth youth.

Two got out of the Renault and snatched a cash box with £3,640 from the security guard and escaped in the vehicle.

Officers following them watched the box explode in a cloud of dye in the back of the getaway car.

The youths were detained while the other juvenile was arrested as the rest of the gang regrouped a short time later at a fast food restaurant in the Barking-road in East Ham.

Lwanga escaped, but was arrested a month later after detectives were alerted when he tried 'laundering' hundreds of pounds in using gaming machines at branches of Ladbroke's in Canning Town last November. He was caught on CCTV.

Then he was spotted on January 17 discarding dye-stained clothing in a wheelie bin near his home in Baron-walk, Canning Town.

Lwanga was arrested and found dyed cash hidden under his mattress.

Detectives took it to SmartWater scientists for testing. The cash under the mattress was found to be part of a £25,000 transit robbery haul at Barclay's in Barking-road, Plaistow, on January 8, and from another £25,000 heist at Opal Money Transfer in Leytonstone-road, Stratford, December 17.

Traces of SmartWater on a glove were identified as linked to a £5,000 snatch from a security van at Gallions Reach retail park in Beckton on January 14.

Lwanga was also convicted in court today (Friday) of conspiracy to rob with others between November 5 and January 18, as well as three laundering charges.

Det Con Laurie Bays, from Barking Flying Squad, said tonight after the case: "Lwanga was a prolific robber who recruited youths to carry out the robberies and minimise his own risk.

"But a combination of vigilant Ladbroke's staff and advances in SmartWater technology meant he didn't get away with it.

"This is the first time SmartWater evidence has been presented during a trial to help us convict a transit robber."

He added: "The liquid is invisible to the naked eye, but it's rather like a bar-code with a unique reference that means it can easily be traced to the point of origin... in our case, several cash boxes stolen during robberies."

The Flying Squad now claims a 65 per cent detection rate for transit heists, better than a one-in-two chance of catching the thieves.

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