A highly professional burglar with a military background is suspected of carrying out series of violent house raids across south-east England.
Armed with a sawn-off shotgun, the man stakes out expensive Home Counties properties and has taken jewellery, watches and heirlooms worth about £1m. He knows the exact layout of the properties and location of safes by the time he strikes, Surrey Police said. Police said he may be ex-military and possesses “specialist skills”.
Police forces in Berkshire, Kent, Surrey and Sussex are investigating a series of raids between November 2014 and October 2017. Officers believe the burglar stakes out his targets for some time before launching an attack- a method which has led newspapers to dub him the Night Watcher.
Det Insp Dee Fielding, who is leading the investigation, said the man strikes approximately every six months and is not “an opportunist burglar”. “This is absolutely not an amateur,” she said. “He stakes out these houses over a number of days, sometimes for a couple of weeks. We can see that on CCTV he is hiding in gardens – he’s looking at houses to establish what the routines are of those within the premises.”
“The skills that he’s using includes carrying a firearm. He uses cable-ties to tie up the occupants of the house. When he enters a house where he knows he is going to be outnumbered he still has the confidence and the ability to overpower those people.
Whereas most people would need two hands to use a cable tie, Det Insp Fielding said, the suspect is able to tie people up using one hand even while they are struggling. “We believe, based on this, that he may be ex-military or certainly has specialist skills from some sort of [similar] background.”
Burglaries Committed So Far:
12 November 2014 – Kingswood, Surrey
21 January 2015 – Maidenhead area, Berkshire
13 January 2016 – Chichester area, Sussex
22 November 2016 – Sevenoaks area, Kent
January 2017 – Maidstone area, Kent
24 April 2017 – Virginia Water area, Surrey
26 October 2017 – Kingswood, Surrey
On each occasion, the man has used “unnecessary levels of violence”, police said.
One victim, Susan Morris, 61, said: “He knew exactly how hard to hit me. He hit me three times on my face, it was very painful, I couldn’t believe the blows kept coming.”
Mrs Morris said during the raid at her home in Kingswood, Surrey, in October, the man pointed a gun in her back, hit her head against a wall and dragged her across the floor by her hair. All the while he kept demanding more jewellery. Mrs Morris said at one point she could not get a ring and bracelet off, and added: “I actually thought ‘he’s going to cut my finger off’.”
When her husband returned home from work, he found her still tied up with cables and hiding in a bedroom.
Describing the man, she said: “I would say he spoke well, he had no accent, he didn’t have bad grammar, he’s an intelligent man, he knows how to assess the situation and carry this out.”
Police believe the man may be ex-military because of his levels of preparation and his “well-spoken, intelligent” language and manner but they have said he could be a current member of the armed forces or law enforcement. Officers said he operates alone, speaks little, threatens to kill people and their dogs and is “incredibly decisive”.
After DNA from the burglar was found at one crime scene, officers requested and were denied access to the Ministry of Defence’s DNA database. The MoD said its DNA records were only shared with police if military personnel were under suspicion or convicted of a crime.
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “We are working with the police in their investigation. “We are unable to share DNA taken from personnel before they are deployed on military operations as it is restricted under data protection. “If service personnel are convicted of a crime or are under suspicion, DNA records are shared with the police.”
Who Is The Night Watcher?
Description of burglar:
Has a stocky/muscular build
Is about 6ft (1.8m) tall
Speaks with a South of England accent
Might be away from home regularly for extended periods of time
Has income that is disproportionate to their job or means
Has specialist knowledge and skills
May seem to have money disproportionate to their job
Might be travelling or away for long periods of time