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Ondřej Jarůšek
September 8, 2022, 11:00am
Reading time: 10:39

UFC Fighter That Survived Stabbing In The Heart And Stole £53m In A Bank Robbery. Lee Murray Is Still In Prison

He was a promising fighter, but his career ended with a brutal stabbing that nearly killed him. Subsequently, he embarked on the path of a crime. He and his gang stole around £53 million and to this day it is one of the biggest bank robberies of all times

Ondřej Jarůšek
September 8, 2022, 11:00am
Reading time: 10:39
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Lee Murray liked gambling, parties and often got into fights on the street while visiting nightclubs. He was associated with dangerous people and made dangerous enemies. This, combined with his wild way of life, almost cost him his life one evening. He only survived as if by a miracle.

MMA fighter Lee Murray, who also fought in the UFC in the past, celebrated the birthday of a British model at the end of September 2005 in the London nightclub Funky Buddha. The booze was flowing and Murray was having a good time - despite being stabbed at the same venue just a few weeks earlier. But the exuberant birthday celebrations were once again replaced by a bloody drama. That same evening, the fighter became the target of another, even more brutal attack.

He almost bled out in the street

The fighter did not leave the bar until after closing time at 3 in the morning, but he did not have a peaceful journey home. Outside, he noticed a group of men fighting with one of his friends. He therefore decided to take action, as he was already in the habit of doing. "I wanted to help him, my friend was being beaten by six or seven guys," Murray described the fight. But when he rushed to help his friend, he was stabbed.


I knew I had been stabbed in the heart, by the blood gushing out of me. Blood sprayed from me about a meter away. (...) I lay down on the back seat, blood splashed all the way to the roof.


Source: Getty Images/Jules Annan/Avalon

"First they stabbed me in the head. At first I thought it was a punch. When I felt blood running down my face, I wiped it away and kept fighting. Then I looked down and blood was spurting from my chest. I knew I had been stabbed in the heart by the blood gushing out of me. Blood sprayed from me about a meter away," he described the attack.


The brawl quickly escalated into a fight, until the arrival of the police dispersed the entire group. The assailants fled the scene, and so did the stabbed Lee Murray, who was helped by two girls who had just finished their shift at a nearby casino. He told them he had been stabbed in the heart and needed to be taken to the hospital.

“I lay down in the back seat, blood sprayed up to the roof and then back down onto me. I remember thinking at that moment that I was going to die," he recalled. “I lost so much blood that I lost consciousness. I woke up in the ambulance with a mask on my face trying to pull it off. I didn't know what was going on.” Then he passed out again. "I woke up in the hospital on the operating table. One of my friends burst in and they shouted at him to leave because of the risk of infection."

He spent ten days in the hospital, but he still had a long recovery ahead of him. The incident left him with scars and wounds almost all over his body. He had one gash above his eye, another cut on his forearm and a scar running down his chest from an operation where surgeons had to access his heart, which had a stab wound on the left side. He had another stab wound under his left armpit. The knife went through the pectoral muscle and pierced the left lung. Looking at his scarred body, Murray remarked that he "looked like Frankenstein".


A month after the stabbing, he returned to the London Shootfighters gym and, despite doctors' warnings, appeared set to resume his previous career. He also seemed determined to push himself even harder than before. "Before, I never trained at 100 percent. When I had a match, I would train for eight to ten weeks, then party for two months and not train. But when I recover and can train again, I will give it 100 percent," he declared.

But he never took part in any match. Instead, his life took a completely different turn - he and his companions decided to rob a bank. To this day, it is one of the biggest bank robberies in history.

A street fighter who made it to the UFC


Lee Murray was born on November 12, 1977 in London and was initially raised by his mother alone. As a child, he got into street fights with neighborhood kids. He had a complicated relationship with his father and, as author Howard Sounes described in the book Heist: The True Story of the World's Biggest Cash Robbery, became violent after drinking.


At school, Lee met Paul Allen, who became his best friend. However, due to poor grades and behavior, Murray was kicked out of school. While roaming the streets, he became involved in theft (he often stole radios from cars with his cronies) and drug sales. This eventually landed him in juvenile detention.


Murray started combat sports in 1999, when he was 22 years old, and at the end of the same year he had his first fight. He quickly knocked out his opponent in the first round and earned the nickname "Lightning". Murray has had solid results in the cage and has finished the vast majority of his opponents in the first or second round by KO or submission.


His performances earned him a contract with the UFC, where he defeated the American Jorge Rivera in the first round at the tournament with number 46. However, it wasn't just his performance that impressed him, but his very entry into the cage, during which he wore a Hannibal Lecter mask. Even the head of the organization, Dana White, said that he was afraid of him. After the fight, he challenged the famous Tito Ortiz to a match.


However, an earlier charge of assaulting a man in his native England had dragged on with Lee Murray, which had caused him visa problems and he could no longer continue with the overseas organisation.

He thus signed a new contract with the Cage Rage organization, where his opponent was none other than the Brazilian Anderson Silva, who later became one of the great stars of the UFC. He beat Murray on points. This was the fighter's last fight. His career was cut short by a stabbing in which he almost bled to death, and the subsequent decision to go down the path of crime, in which he saw an opportunity to get money quickly.


Source: Getty Images/Jules Annan/Avalon

Preparing for a giant robbery and armed kidnapping

The bank robbery was preceded by a number of preparations. According to one of the gang members, Lee Murray was the mastermind of the whole operation, but information about his role in the robbery varies. They chose the Securitas company in Kent in the south-east of England as a target, which stored banknotes printed by the Bank of England. In preparation for the heist, the gang of criminals obtained information from an informant who gave them the name of Securitas warehouse manager Colin Dixon and that he was married with a young child. The next stage of the plan - kidnapping.

On the evening of February 21, 2006, Colin Dixon got into his car after work and headed home. It seemed like a day like any other, but the complete opposite was true. On his way home, he was stopped by a police car - or at least he thought it was the police. A man in a fake uniform, wearing a badge bought on eBay, approached the driver. His face was modified with make-up so that the manager (or potential witnesses) could not identify him - they were helped with the disguise (including wigs and fake beards) by a make-up artist who was a friend of one of the criminals.


Colin Dixon got out of the car, was handcuffed and loaded into the other car. "Don't do anything stupid and nothing will happen to you," one of the fake policemen was supposed to say to the kidnapped man, showing him a gun. Unlike their uniforms and badges, the weapon was real. Dixon was blindfolded and taken to a remote farm. The next stop was the home where his family lived.


The kidnapped woman opened the door for two men disguised as police officers. The criminals, posing as law enforcement officers, told her that her husband had been in a serious car accident and they needed to take her and their child to the hospital. The woman believed it. Outside, she and the young child were loaded into a van and driven to the farm where her husband was imprisoned. They handcuffed the family and pointed a gun at them. "If you cooperate, nothing will happen to anyone," they threatened the manager. They loaded him back into the car and set off to carry out the next part of the plan.

There was more money in the safe than they could take away

It was shortly after midnight and a group of at least seven members stopped at the Securitas warehouse where the Bank of England's money was kept. The manager got out of the car accompanied by a man dressed as a police officer. Colin Dixon entered the building, where he was immediately tackled to the ground by a fake police officer, who let the rest of the gang inside. The manager had to order the night shift employees not to sound the alarm. One of them was a certain Garry, who let his boss and a disguised robber into the building. "I told him to do whatever he was told because they had my wife and child," Colin Dixon recalled.


The employees were locked in cages and robbers in black hoods, armed with pistols, shotguns and an AK-47 assault weapon, forced Dixon to turn off the alarms. The masked thief, who was holding an AK-47 in his hand, was Lee Murray, according to a later police investigation. Around his neck was a stop watch, giving him the nickname "Stopwatch". The manager's wife and child were also locked in a cage later. They were ordered to lower their heads and close their eyes.


Thanks to previous information from the informant, the thieves knew the floor plan of the building and knew exactly where to move. As author Howard Sounes describes in the book Heist: The True Story of the World's Biggest Cash Robbery, this informant was an immigrant from Albania, Ermir Hysenaj, who had worked in the company's warehouse for a long time. Lee Murray and his cronies bought a small spy camera before the robbery, with which Hysenaj was sent to work. He had it hidden behind his belt. He thus provided the gang with vital information without which the entire action would probably not have been possible.

A huge sum of money was waiting for the gang in the safe. The robbers filled the truck with banknotes and it took them almost three quarters of an hour to fill it. When it was shortly before three o'clock in the morning, the thieves got into their vehicles and quickly disappeared from the scene. Each of them just became a multi-millionaire. But the captives were so frightened that, although they heard the criminals leaving, it took them a long time to work up the courage to free themselves and call the police.


By that time, the thieves were already long gone and took away 53 million pounds in stolen cash. But the interesting thing is that the gang stole "only" a quarter of the money that was in the safe. In short, the criminals had no way to take the rest away, their car was full. Even so, the theft is described as the biggest bank robbery in English history and one of the biggest ever.

The hunt for the criminal has begun

The plan worked. No one was injured and the thieves had fabulous wealth in front of them. The criminals rejoiced, but the police immediately took action. As the author Howard Sounses further points out, news of a robbery of such unprecedented proportions flew across the country. Almost all security forces were alerted, television stations broadcast footage from security cameras that captured the robbery, and authorities offered a hefty reward for any information that would lead to the arrest of the gang.

The noose tightened and it tightened fast. Within a few days of the event, the police got to the girlfriend of one of the robbers - a make-up artist who helped the thieves with their disguise. Police later tracked down a van containing weapons, masks and around £1 million in cash. They found more money in the garage of Murray's partner, who also had maps of the Securitas warehouse with him.


After less than two weeks, the police charged five people, whose fate was also sealed by the aforementioned make-up artist. In exchange for her own freedom, she talked about how she helped criminals and provided valuable testimony against them. Over time, a total of 36 people were arrested in connection with the robbery.


Lee Murray was a well-known company to the local authorities, so it is not surprising that his name also made it to the list of suspects. When the former MMA fighter saw how fast the police were moving in the case, he decided to flee to Morocco. He did not choose this country by chance. His father's side of the family came from Morocco, and there was no extradition of criminals between that country and Great Britain. But the police were still after him.

Opulent life in Morocco


The opulent lifestyle he lived with his friends in Morocco drew attention to him and aided his capture. He drove a Mercedes, wore expensive jewelry, clothes, and bought an opulent mansion with part of the loot. But in the end the cage fell around him. On suspicion of involvement in a bank robbery, Lee Murray was arrested by the Moroccan police on June 25, 2006, about four months after the event. They caught him in a shopping center, which, according to a spokesman for local authorities, was surrounded by about 50 policemen before his arrest. They also found drugs in his house.


At first, the authorities discussed his extradition to England, but that was not possible because Lee Murray also had Moroccan citizenship and the law did not allow it. In the end, therefore, he was tried in Morocco. However, even before he heard the verdict, he allegedly tried to escape from the prison. Bachars found small saws hidden in his cell, with which, according to them, he tried to cut the bars in the window and escape. But this attempt was thwarted. In 2010 court sentenced him to 10 years in prison for his involvement in a bank robbery, which was later extended to 25 years. He should be released in 2035.

In 2018, Lee Murray gave an interview to fight portal Bloody Elbow from behind bars. When asked if he could find some sense of happiness in his current situation, he replied: "Where I am, there is no happiness. But I guess I'm just happy to still be alive. I had a lot of time to think back on things from the past and see where I had made mistakes in my life. Sometimes I sit in a room with people with multiple life sentences, and at that moment your own problems seem small," he said.


According to him, he is still training in prison, dreaming of returning to the UFC and winning the belt. Although this vision is extremely unrealistic (he will be 58 years old after his release), the idea of returning to MMA still motivates him and helps him see through the long days. “This dream will never leave me. I'll dream about it as long as I breathe air. My biggest disappointment is that the dream would actually come true if I wasn't in prison. That hurts me the most.”

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Thumbnail: Getty Images/Jules Annan/Avalon
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