Somewhere in Northumberland, thieves have broken into a bank and made off with £1 million. Don't panic: it's all for Sky One's The Heist. But, as detectives Sue Hill and Ray Howard reveal, they won't rest until the criminals have been brought to justice...
Following the hugely popular first series in 2018, high-stakes reality show The Heist returns to Sky One in February.
This time round, the action takes place in the sleepy market town of Alnwick, nestled in the heart of historic Northumberland, where nine ordinary members of the local community are planning an audacious Hatton Garden-style bank job to steal £1 million.
If they can successfully steal the cash from the Bank of Northumbria, and keep it hidden for 20 days, it’s theirs to keep. But as news of this major crime sweeps the town, Detective Chief Superintendent Sue Hill and Detective Superintendent Ray Howard lead a team of Britain’s best detectives, who'll stop at nothing to track down the thieves and recover the money.
With the investigation gathering momentum, we arrive in Alnwick to chat to Sue and Ray to find out if they are any closer in bringing the criminals to justice in The Heist series two...
What makes a town like Alnwick the perfect place for a show like this?
Sue: "Well, I think it’s perfect because you’ve got a lovely community in a beautiful rural area and plenty of hiding places. And the people are very friendly and engaging. They want to take part and it's not so busy. So there's a whole… I don't know why Matt chose this place but I can see why he would. It’s pretty, it’s in a quaint market town, it’s quite quirky. It’s got everything… including a big bank burglary in Northumbria!"
What can you reveal about the crime that’s been committed?
Sue: "What we know is that a SUBSTANTIAL amount of money has been stolen. We know that on June 21st 2019 a number of suspects, at least eight, got into the Bank of Northumbria in the early hours of the morning. It was very much a copycat of the ambitious Hatton Garden heist, where they’ve planned it all out, gone in with power tools, drilled through the walls and left with this money."
We're in Alnwick on Day 11 of the investigation. Are things progressing well?
Sue: "We have a couple of lines of enquiry, we’ve got some fantastic leads and we are working on our intelligence as we speak. We have suspects, we've already made some arrests and we're hoping there will be more forthcoming."
What are the main challenges you’ve faced with the crime taking place in a small town like Alnwick?
Sue: "Well, the main problem for us is that these thieves know this area back to front – and we are soft southerners! We don't know the terrain. We don't know how boats operate up here for instance. We're trying to play catch up. They are in front of us because they've got a head start knowing the area and knowing the community. They know the hideouts. They know where to go. Stick them in the West End and they'd be lost! I know the West End inside out, just like they know their area inside out."
The case is being investigated in real time – but how does filming for TV compare to a real-life investigation?
Sue: "In our careers, Ray and I have run some of the biggest police enquiries you could in this country and now we're managing this investigation, which is equally as hard. We're both exhausted, we're tired and our brains are fried, just as they would be in a real investigation. Sometimes we might have to slow down and reset the cameras but the only real difference I’d say is that, here, the TV production team have to stop for dinner. In all my years as a police officer, I’ve NEVER stopped for lunch!" Ray: "For us it’s all still very, very real. The investigation is real, the people are real and the responses we're getting in interviews is all very, very real. Exactly what you'd expect from criminals in the real world. These thieves are playing a good game – so we've had to up our game, too!"
How badly do you want to catch these thieves?
Ray: "We have got a diverse team of experienced intelligence officers and detectives on this case and, for them, this is real. They want to win this. They are competitive. They've been at the top of their game, and they want to win. And you can't fake that." Sue: "The suspects we are arresting are not giving anything away. They’re not folding, they’re not confessing, they are making us work like you would in reality where nobody caves in and everybody says: ‘No comment’. They are pushing us and pushing us but we need to catch these people. There's a lot of money at stake here. And, not only that, we’ve got reputations to protect, too! I’d still have to go back and face all my old colleagues and say we couldn’t catch them." Ray: "We’re here to do a job. We will catch them if we can."
Why do you think TV viewers are so obsessed with cops and robbers?
Sue: "I think TV viewers are obsessed with crime full stop. I get asked all the time to talk about murders, I’ve just been asked to do a podcast on murder and other drama documentaries on murders – people are just obsessed with crime. With this show in particular, people would want to take part in something like this, because we all think we’d get away with it. Saying things like: ‘I know what I would do’. ‘I know where I’d put the money!’ What makes it gripping TV is that these people have tried to be really clever, really clever. They’ve researched and they ARE good. But I’m certain they’re not quite good enough…"
You’re both retired from the force now. What makes you want to do this?
Sue: "I’d hate to just sit on a sun-lounger somewhere. I do loads of charity work now and coming back here makes me realise how stressful it was being a copper and probably why I look so old now! I did 33 and a half years in the police force, always in operational roles, and I loved every minute." Ray: "I only retired last year and it's fantastic to use all the skills and the knowledge that I’d built up over 30 years and actually do something different. Getting to see how the production company puts everything together has been amazing to watch. It’s almost like there are two separate productions going on – one team for the cops and another team for the robbers – and the two never meet! Working on this show has been an absolutely privilege."
What do you most enjoy about working on a show like this?
Sue: "Working with Ray. We’re like the Ant & Dec of policing!" Ray: "And I would say working with Sue. Aside from that, it’s getting to that end where you think that’s a result, just like in the real police, knowing: ‘We’ve done it now’. All of the hard work and graft, it’s difficult, it’s gutsy. But when you finally get to charge people, it makes it all worthwhile."
If any of the robbers manage to successfully hide the money for 20 days they get to keep it. Isn’t that saying that crime DOES pay?
Sue: "No, I don’t think it’s saying that crime pays actually because we are going to do everything we can to make sure no one will ever say that." Ray: "We’ve got just 20 days to catch these thieves. That's the only bit where this is a game. In the real world, justice never sleeps. If they’re not caught, criminals like these WILL always be looking over their shoulder for the rest of their lives."
The Heist 2 returns to Sky One and NOW TV on Thursday February 6. Also available on Sky on-demand.
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With over 20 years’ experience writing about TV and film, Vicky currently writes features for What’s on TV, TV Times, TV & Satellite Week magazines plus news and watching guides for WhatToWatch.com, a job which involves chatting to a whole host of famous faces. Our Vicky LOVES light entertainment, with Strictly Come Dancing, Britain’s Got Talent and The Voice UK among her fave shows. Basically, if it’s got a shiny floor, she’s all over it! When she’s not watching TV, you might find Vicky in therapy… retail therapy that is!