UK
09/05/2014 07:37 BST | Updated 09/05/2014 09:59 BST

'Skull Cracker' Michael Wheatley Charged With Armed Robbery

SWNS

The escaped fugitive known as the "Skull Cracker" who was dramatically arrested five days after going missing from an open prison will appear in court today charged with carrying out an armed robbery at a building society.

Michael Wheatley, 55, is alleged to have robbed the Chelsea Building Society in Sunbury-on-Thames, Surrey, on Wednesday while he was on the run from HMP Standford Hill on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent.

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Michael Wheatley pictured during an armed raid in 2002

He will appear at East Surrey Magistrates' Court in Redhill charged with robbery, possession of a firearm or imitation firearm and being unlawfully at large, Surrey Police said.

A second man, Kevin Perry, 53, of West India Dock Road in east London will appear at the same court charged with assisting an offender, perverting the course of justice and handling stolen goods.

Wheatley, from Kent, was arrested on a street corner in Tower Hamlets, east London at 2pm on Wednesday, just hours after he allegedly robbed the building society.

Witnesses said armed plain-clothed police officers surrounded him and shouted, "Armed police, get down", forcing him to the floor.

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Angel Todorov, 22, told the Daily Mirror: "I looked out the window and there was police officers everywhere. There was a great deal of shouting and swearing."

Wheatley's arrest brought to an end a high-profile manhunt sparked after he went missing while on temporary licence from HMP Standford Hill on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, on May 3.

Wheatley, who earned his nickname after pistol-whipping victims including a 73-year-old woman, had gone on the run twice in the past and each time staged a series of violent robberies before being caught and returned to jail.