Heathrow robbery suspect walks free from court -- before his trial Peter Blake: disappeared
After walking through the double doors of Court 35, Peter Blake turned down a winding staircase and within three minutes had navigated his way unnoticed through the Gothic maze of the Royal Courts of Justice.
The disappearance of the "dangerous" suspect who had been allowed to remain on bail during the first big criminal trial without a jury for 400 years was condemned as "a low point in British legal history".
Detectives hunting for Mr Blake believe he may have fled abroad, as it was revealed that he had previously gone on the run to northern Cyprus.
The prosecution is expected to consider asking for the withdrawal of bail from his three co-defendants when the court sits on Monday. Mr Blake (57), was due to start giving evidence in his defence that afternoon.
He is accused of being a member of an armed gang that stole £1.75m (€2m) in cash at Heathrow. Three past trials relating to the raid have collapsed amid fears of jury tampering, costing about £22m.
The compulsive gambler had intimated to a relative earlier this week that he was thinking of disappearing and wanted to protect the money left by friends and relatives as bail surety.
On Wednesday he returned to the wood-panelled court after lunch and was warned by his barrister that he was likely to be sent to prison that night because a female relative had told the court that she was withdrawing her £100,000 share of the £260,000 surety. At 2.15pm he asked to leave the court to speak to his legal team. Mr Blake, of Notting Hill, West London, has not been seen since.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) insisted yesterday that prosecutors did not know of the problems with the surety until Mr Blake's barrister told the court of the reason for his client's departure. "If we had known of this we would have applied to revoke his bail," a CPS spokesman said.
Two other people who each put up £80,000 will have to appear in court to explain why the money should not be seized. They will argue that Mr Blake's bail should have been ended as soon as the court was aware the other surety was withdrawn.
The robbery of which Mr Blake is accused has been compared with the film 'Goodfellas' in which Mafia mobsters rob a cargo terminal at a New York airport. (© The Times, London)