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'Skullcracker' Jailed For Life For Armed Robbery
A serial armed robber has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 10 years for offences he carried out while on the run from an open prison.
Michael Wheatley was already serving 13 life sentences at Standford Hill prison on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, when he was granted day release and failed to return on May 3.
The 55-year-old - nicknamed the "Skullcracker" for pistol-whipping victims - raided the Chelsea Building Society in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, four days later.
He pointed a handgun at staff and made off with £18,350, Guildford Crown Court heard.
Wheatley was arrested hours later in Tower Hamlets, East London, and most of the money was recovered.
The gun, real or imitation, was never found.
Appearing via a video link from Belmarsh Prison, Wheatley pleaded guilty to robbery, possession of a firearm, or imitation firearm while committing an offence, and being unlawfully at large.
His solicitor urged Judge Christopher Critchlow to pass sentence once CCTV footage of the robbery had been viewed.
The court heard Wheatley robbed the same building society branch 13 years ago and staff were told to be on their guard while he was on the run.
He showed no emotion as Judge Critchlow passed sentence and told him: "It is clear the public must be protected from you for a long time."
Wheatley has spent a total of 46 years in institutions, starting at the age of six, the court heard.
Speaking at the time, Conservative backbencher Philip Davies said whoever had allowed Wheatley out of prison was "a berk" and should be sacked.