The strange details of Lee Murray's Securitas heist
In part of two of Bloody Elbow's interview with Pat Kondelis, the 'Catching Lightning' director delves into the Securitas heist and muses a bit on what may be in Murray's future.
During the process of making Catching Lighting, director Pat Kondelis had many shocks and surprises that no one saw coming. It was enough to catch the production crew off guard, which made for plenty of surprises for the audience.
In the second part of this exclusive interview with Bloody Elbow, Kondelis discusses his meeting with Anderson Silva as well as the MMA figures he hoped to talk to. From there, the topic Murray is most famous for arises: the Securitas heist, Murray’s apprehension in Morocco, and what might potentially happen for him given his current predicament.
A handful of notable figures from the MMA world appear in the docuseries, Anderson Silva being the biggest of all. And Silva’s appearance was more revealing than Kondelis and his crew had believed it would be.
So we begin part 2 of this interview with a look at what that experience was like.
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VR: (Sighs) Anderson Silva.
PK: (Excitedly) Yeah!
VR: He makes an appearance and I wasn’t so much surprised that he would be there. But there is – while it’s never mentioned outright – you do see level of superstardom that he achieved well after the Lee Murray fight. And it does leave the audience to wonder again: what could have been. What did you make of the manner in which he spoke of Lee and the frank admission that he was in fact very, very worried about this guy who wasn’t exactly a megastar in the MMA world.
VR: But was still such a legitimate threat to him. As someone who had spoken to pro fighters, and I assume he wasn’t the first person you spoke to, how did that catch you?
PK: I was very surprised. I was very surprised. I mean, we were at Anderson Silva’s house. One of the greatest fighters of all time, hands down. And immediately, he spoke so highly of Lee. He says in the doc, he says “I was a little scared to fight Lee Murray”. It is shocking to hear Anderson Silva say that. And I remember asking him, I said “Is there anything that you can remember about Lee Murray that was just different from everybody else that you’ve fought?” And he paused for a second. We had to cut this down more, in the earlier cut there was more of this, which was amazing. I wish we could have kept it in. But he paused and he was like “His eyes.” Right? You can hear him say a little bit in the doc but he’s like “His eyes were so intense. Like I still knew how dangerous he was in the last few seconds of that third round.” You know, he never changed. Even if he got a little slower and his timing off as he got more tired during the fight, he was like “I could not stop no matter what, because if he caught me, it was all over.”
And his intensity in his eyes, which you can see in those photos of Lee in the doc. So that’s amazing. To hear someone like Anderson Silva’s stature to say he was worried about Lee Murray in the last seconds of that fight that he won. It was wild. As well as very authentic sadness when he was informed as to this current situation of Lee. And I don’t think he knew the specifics of Lee’s situation in Morocco.
VR: I was gonna ask you exactly that. What was your reaction to see him feel that sorrow in the moment? Much like Fryklund, as we were mentioning before, it seems like he was processing it as he was saying it and at that moment the weight came in. What did you make of that?
PK: Again, very surprised. Very surprised. But yeah, it’s as he’s asking me questions about how long he’s been in prison, when can he get out, all of this and realizing this. And ultimately saying, you know, look: I don’t think he’s a bad person. Which again, I thought was shocking and amazing, you know? I think it is, it speaks to the kind of guy that I think Anderson is. He’s an absolute sweetheart of a person. All the fighters that we interviewed are. They were all so generous and gracious and kind people and Anderson was absolutely completely polite and a gentleman.
But I think it just shows, he becomes a visual representation of Lee’s situation in the documentary. When you see him realize how dark of a place Lee’s in, that there is no real hope unless there’s a last minute miraculous pardon by the king of Morocco, he’s gonna spend 28 years of his life in prison. For Anderson to feel that sadness right there is, again – I never thought in a million years Anderson Silva would be crying in front of me. With cameras rolling, you can’t hope or prepare for something like that. More than anything, I think it becomes a visual representation of his (Murray’s) current situation. The tears running down the face of Anderson Silva.
VR: Were there other representatives of the Miletich gym that you perhaps would have wished had gotten involved (in the documentary) at the time?
PK: Robbie Lawler, I really tried to get. I talked with his manager endlessly and then they just stopped responding. I don’t know what happened with that. I would have loved to talk to Robbie. I think Lee had a better relationship with Fryklund and Robbie than he did some other people in the gym. But you know, I had read somewhere, I can’t remember where but Robbie saying like training with Lee, you would hear him with the pads and you would stop and look. Because it sounded like gunfire as he’s hitting the pads. So as you see in the doc, it’s another consistent theme where everybody talks about the sound of his punches. And they all start going (punches hand) “Crack, crack crack!” and they go on over and over and over again. They always said that. It’s, you hear the bone on bone, the cracking of it. It was another interesting thing that Robbie had said before to somebody. I can’t remember who it was on the record. I would have loved to talk to Robbie Lawler, I’m a huge fan of all those guys, too. And while the story definitely has dark elements to it, it was unbelievably complex to do, I had so much fun doing this as an MMA fan. To get to sit with Chuck Liddell and Anderson and Tony and the great Remco Pardoel! Absolutely fucking loved it. It was just a blast to talk to those legends.
VR: I probably should have started with that. As far as your MMA fandom prior to engaging in this entire thing. When did that begin and do you have a background in martial arts in any capacity?
PK: Very little. When I was a freshman in college I took a class of jiu-jitsu and catch wrestling for like a year and a half with a guy that was training under Carlos Machado at the time in Jiu-Jitsu. Then the Catch Wrestling guy was this wrestler from Ohio that was amazing. And it was a blast, too. Then the class just kind of dissolved. I loved doing it, and certainly wouldn’t consider myself a martial artist or anything like that.
But my fandom began, like most people, in a very cliche way. I was like 12 or 13 when the first UFC came out and rode my bike to the video store where you could rent UFC 1 on VHS. Because I'm pretty sure back then a lot of people didn’t really know what it was and that it should have been like an NC-17-type situation.
VR: Faces Of Death type shit.
PK: Exactly! Like I remember renting this thing numerous times and having friends over watching this. And that was ultimately the first time where we all learned what the hell Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was, when you see Royce Gracie just cutting through people like a hot knife through butter. So I loved that. I followed it more in the earlier stages more than I do now. It’s obviously changed and evolved. It’s harder for me to keep track of what’s happening. I’ll still try to watch the big fight, get into it, but I was much more of a fan, I think, at the earlier stages than I am now.
VR: Remco, as you mentioned, a fixture of the earlier era. What was that like? Seeing someone that you had seen in his youth, in his prime go out there and now – I mean, he looks like he’s doing great. I hope he is.
VR: …And to see him discussing Lee. Someone that came through what perhaps be seen as a more savage era. And yet he speaks this way about Murray himself. I’m sure that had to be impressive yet slightly different, no?
PK: Remco is just an impressive human being. He’s one of those guys that’s so kind, so generous, so authentic. He loves Lee, like all those guys do. I mean he absolutely loves him and has so much respect for him. And you get a sense of that in the doc. But Remco, right? UFC 2, I think he made his debut. And fast forward a few years, Remco was a pioneer in Europe for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I don’t know the full story, but Remco was somehow connected with the Gracie family, some sort of permission was given. I don’t know exactly what happened, but Remco is the guy, one of the guys right now, in Europe to promote Brazilian jiu-jitsu from a pioneer standpoint. It made sense why Lee sought him out to get training in jiu-jitsu.
I have to say, Remco said more things that shocked me more than any other fighters. One being, I had no idea Lee Murray was at a purple belt level, he said. I was very surprised by that, I didn't know he was so proficient in jiu-jitsu. You see it in the Jorge Rivera fight, right? How in two minutes he puts him in a triangle. Somebody that’s known for having these crazy hands, to be able to do that. And then to hear Remco, (he) said “I really think he would have been one of the GOATs of our industry, like the next Anderson or Fedor.” And when he said that, I was so surprised I asked him to repeat it. Crazy statement, right? Dead serious. He also says “Lee Murray is one of the few people I know that was willing to die in the ring. I’ve only met a couple in my life but he was one of them. I’m not one, I’ve given up in fights.” Lee was not that guy. His mentality is on a different level.
Which is a crazy thing again, for these guys to say, Pat Miletich said something also… Pat was my first interview on this project, September of 2020. And he said “There’s guys that think they’re the alphas, and then there’s the real alphas – the guys that think they’re really running the show. And Lee was one of them.” For Pat Miletich to say “Lee Murray’s a real alpha”, that carries more weight, obviously than anybody else that says they knew him in high school or something and he was a good street fighter. That’s a wild thing to say.
VR: Were you aware that Daren Aronofsky at one point was attached to make a movie, from what I understood about the heist itself (note: Gareth Evans was also attached at one point after Aronofsky dropped it)? And there was some chatter about it being potentially a biopic, I’m not sure how far that would have gone, but that was never made. You think that was a good thing? Would you hope that there would be an actual film made in the future.
PK: I don’t think Darren Aronofsky is the guy to make this. No disrespect, no… nothing against Aronofsky. I love The Wrestler, it’s an amazing movie. I love that movie but I don’t think he would be the right person to do this. I’ve heard all sorts of stuff like that, right? Like, that he was gonna do it and Tom Hardy was attached at some point. You hear stuff like this all the time. options on books and articles and all sorts of stuff like that. I would say yes, I'm glad that hasn’t been done yet. We have a deal with restrictive rights to Lee’s life story. And that’s in the works, I very much want to see that get made. Because the heist is a very small part of his wild and crazy life story.
VR: Regarding the heist, there are numerous contradictions. It was way more complex than I remember initially. Primarily as it relates to the family of the facility manager being kidnapped, (for example) were guns placed to their heads or not? Were they threatened, or not? The story became a lot muddier. I’m glad you sort of left that distance there to illustrate that this was a mess. Because it’s impossible to prove a number of these things. And I wonder what you made of the discrepancies that were there and how that made things far less clear. Did it frustrate you that it didn’t make things easier to view?
PK: I think it did. I think for my own… In my mind it does, and there’s a couple of key points to that. I’m glad you brought that up. There’s been, we can say this: we definitely know, I interviewed the second in command of this investigation for the Kent police, Andy Nicholl, who I think has also never done a camera interview before. Who is also the man that spent two years in Morocco and convincing the Moroccan authorities to actually prosecute Lee Murray, right? So he’s not only the person that pulls Michelle Hogg’s trash bin literally moments before the trash truck coming and taking (prosthetics as evidence of the heist), within three minutes that would have been gone forever
Now, you would figure if the police had that, that would be the first image that they would roll with, “this is how savage and vicious these guys are.” Now what happened to the contrary, is you don't have video evidence of this, which I’ve never seen.
Dave Ecuyer (Detective Constable, Kent Police) takes that, and then ends up being the guy responsible for convincing the Moroccans to prosecute Lee Murray. So in talking to all of these people, solicitor cases in England. They never said that anyone put a gun to the head of the child, of Lynn Dixon’s (wife of bank depot manager) child. Or even the wife. Colin Dixon (bank depot manager) claimed that they placed a gun to his head when they were initially taken to this place. Right? Lee disputes that in the recordings. And that’s a hard thing to try to say who’s right and who’s wrong here. I will say when it comes to the depot itself, you have 86 cameras on the inside and the outside.
We have 45 minutes of total video which is the most that's ever been released. Not a single time do you see a gun placed to anybody’s head. Not once. Now, you would figure if the police had that, that would be the first image that they would roll with, “this is how savage and vicious these guys are.” Now what happened to the contrary, is you don't have video evidence of this, which I’ve never seen. But you have the hostages, the witnesses that worked at Securitas themselves saying “They initially put these zip ties on too tight on me, when I made them aware of it they cut them off but they were afraid they could cut my hand when they were cutting them off”, which is the biggest illustration in my mind that they were not trying to harm anybody, right? So they’re letting them stand up, get their circulation back making things more comfortable for them.
There was an older gentleman that worked in the depot who had a heart condition who had done an interview years and years ago for a UK version of 20/20 or Dateline. He told them he had a heart condition and they sat him up on a chair and got him a glass of water. That’s also not in the surveillance footage that the police gave out. The good things that we know happened that are independently corroborated and verified, you don’t see. I think you can apply that same logic to any of the idea that if there was a gun put to anybody’s head in the depot, you would have seen that. There were cameras everywhere, you don’t see that on video.
Whether or not they did that to Colin Dixon, I don’t know. You can maybe take his word for it. We shot recreations of the kidnapping. That was at the Dixon house where it happened. He no longer lives there but we got access from the people that currently live there so we shot how everything went down according to the police via the account of Colin and Lynn Dixon. I don’t think there’s any way – my personal opinion, I can't verify this – my personal option is standing there in that driveway at roughly 8:30pm which was the time that this happened, if Linda Dixon screamed like she told the police she did? You would have heard that ten houses down. When we first came into that cul-de-sac area they have to film B-roll the first time around, we weren’t even talking and the neighbors came out because they heard us.
You could whisper in that driveway and the person in their living room in the house next door could hear you. They went through such great pains. They had prosthetic disguises on, that by the way, were so impressive that you have Lea Ruscha (another member of the heist crew) with a fake beard, fake chin, fake nose standing a foot – now this is a small house. He’s inside the house under the lights talking to Lynn Dixon who does not realize that these are prosthetic disguises. These are very, very high quality disguises and you don’t do that if you’re gonna kick down the door, put a gun to someone’s head and force them to get down. That’s not what they did.
They told her that her husband had been in a car accident and they had to take her to the hospital. They didn’t know that the 8-year-old (child of Colin and Lynn Dixon) was in the house. The police believe they did not know the 8-year-old was there because when she said “My son is upstairs”, they looked at each other. Because the Dixons had two full-grown children that were out of the house by the time. They didn’t know about the kid. They knew they had kids, but they didn’t live at the house, they were grown. That was a mistake, and that’s why Lee is saying in the recordings “We’d gone too far” at this point.
Lynn Dixon and the child voluntarily get in the car with what they believe are police to go the hospital. They believe that something happened to their father. They don’t know what that is, but they don’t know their being kidnapped. I believe what happened was she got in the car, they drove 10-15 minutes outside of Herne Bay and (they) said “We’re not police, do what we say and you won’t get hurt”.
Not to say… not to condone what they did. I want to be very clear on that. They shouldn’t have done this, they all should have gone to prison for it. But I think if you look at the objective facts in the case, they were clearly doing things to not hurt people. To make sure no one got hurt. There would be no reason at that point when she’s in the car with them to put a gun to her or the kid. No reason. And the police never said that in the trial. Never. Never once.
The only time any talk of Colin Dixon saying that a gun was placed to the child’s head, Dixon says that after the trial in an article that’s published in the UK. We sourced that, we researched that like crazy.
VR: I don’t believe anyone did get hurt as a result…
PK: No one got hurt. I mean, they were all terrified. I don’t wanna discount that. They were terrified, and the one lady, Anca (Deiac, a Securitas employee and hostage) did – and it was Lee that did it – she was in the toilet and I can’t imagine how terrified she was. But as she’s getting out of the stall he pushes her down and says “Get down”. I think even she didn’t think it was intentional because she turns around and her lip is bleeding. And he says “What happened? Where’s that blood from? Is it yours?” because he doesn’t realize what happened.
He asks “Are you OK?” Yeah, she has a busted lip because he was being rough but he wasn’t trying to, I think. That story got blown out of proportion because there were stories saying she was pistol-whipped and there’s all sorts of crazy tales with this, that Lee Murray tried to escape from prison. All of that never happened. I don’t know where these things come from. But that was another goal that we had, “Let’s break these things down, talk to the people that know what happened and present this to the audience.”
VR: Were you surprised at just how incompetent the planners of the heist were after the fact? How sloppy they were? I mean, to do something of this magnitude. To do what frankly was a ballsy, ingenious plan, get away with it, and then have it unravel during the course of the investigation. How much did that surprise you?
PK: It was shocking to see how meticulously they had planned the robbery and all of their preparation, their surveillance, to figure out these prosthetics, and to do all of these things, to have an inside man… and to essentially take $92 million in cash? That’s remarkable. And the ambition that you have to have to pull something off like this is absolutely insane. That said, it was like they never had a single conversation about what they were gonna do afterwards.
Everybody seems to be doing things a little bit differently. Lee’s money got into the banking system somehow. The police don’t know how that happened. He got whatever his cash portion was, his share. That ended up into the banking system. That’s amazing. Like, within days. That’s amazing. I don’t know how he did that. Lee was clearly, I think, smarter than the rest of them but even he made some horrendous mistakes with phone conversations, with DNA being left behind. It was not well-planned out what they were gonna do after the fact.
VR: He gets arrested in Morocco and shockingly enough, he’s tried for crimes that happened in another country while in Morocco. Have you ever seen or heard of any examples of anything like this? Because I certainly haven’t.
PK: The only examples, and I have not heard of them, but the only time this happens – and we got into this in the doc – is war crime or child sex trafficking in some cases. So this is an extraordinarily unique criminal prosecution of Lee Murray. It’s like he’s getting into the history books for all the wrong reasons with this thing. For the theft and for the way that he is prosecuted. This was another one of the questions that was really driving me at the beginning of this. How in the hell does this happen? How do you get arrested and prosecuted in a country when you committed a crime in a different country?
I’ve never heard of that. I think speaking with Sir John Nutting and the other defense barristers that we spoke to, they all say the exact same thing. This just doesn’t happen. England moved mountains to get him, which I think you can kind of understand because of the press they were getting but I don’t understand it when you look at the other people that they seem to not care about finding. At all. They didn’t apply the same zeal in capturing the other people that got away before Lee Murray, and I think there’s a big question as to why that is.
VR: Do you personally, Pat Kondelis, believe Lee Murray when he says he was not the person that orchestrated the heist?
PK: I do. I do. I think the facts point to that. I think he’s orchestrating in the depot, yes. He’s the guy, inside the depot. Because I think he’s got a history of being cool under pressure and when it matters most, he’s going to perform. But we’re able to show that surveillance video that’s never been shown, and who’s surveilling the Dixon house? It’s not Lee Murray. Who lived in the city where the depot was? It’s not Lee Murray. Who is on the phone – this is something nobody seems to pick up on – but in episode 3, spoiler alert here, but you hear the conversation that Lee Murray accidentally records with Lea Ruschea and they’re debating who’s gonna go with Colin Dixon to the front door to get initial access into the depot. They’re arguing about it and Lea Ruschea says ”I can’t go in there, that geezer in there knows me. He knows my name.”
Lee Murray doesn’t even pick up on this. Who is that person? That’s Lea Ruschea saying he knows somebody else in that depot. It’s either that or he knows Colin Dixon. It’s one or the other. It’s not Emir Hysenaj who doesn’t work the night shift, who they got all the video surveillance from and all that. So who is that? I’ve never been able to answer that question. Who else does he know? Don’t know. But he’s saying to Lee Murray in a recorded conversation “I can't be the one to go in there because the guy in there knows me.”
VR: It really must sting to have a project like this that takes so much time and that has so much, that’s so dense with detail and just pure narrative… would there be any chance that we get either some sort of director’s cut or deleted scenes or anything? Because I'm really intrigued as to what was left on the cutting room floor.
PK: (Smiles) There’s a lot. A lot left!
VR: Yeah! I’d imagine, right!
PK: (Laughs) Yeah, a lot. I dunno if any of it is ever gonna see the light of day, to answer your question. But there is a lot that we unfortunately couldn’t put in for time, you know? We could have easily, it’s four hours and twenty minutes of runtime. I was pushing for this to be a five-parter but I understand audiences, their attention spans sometimes it drops off after four hours. Which I get –
VR: Not me, I got a Dropbox! Come on, hit me! (laughs)
PK: (Laughs) There’s a whole lot. Just the Cyprus part alone, we spent a week in Cyprus. Jasmine Lupton (daughter of another heist member Sean Lupton, never captured) looking for Sean Lupton, her dad. I felt terrible having to call her and tell her we couldn’t put that stuff in there. That was a hard call to make. We were with her, filming with her every day for a week in Cyprus as she’s searching for her dad.
There’s a hell of a lot more to this that I’d have loved to have been able to get into and put out there. But I don't know that it’s ever gonna see the light of day.
VR: Ugh. Breaking my heart here, Pat. Just purely on hunches and vibes, you don’t need to look at this from any legal perspective or any kind of purely analytical mind. You think there’s a chance that he doesn’t have to eat the whole penalty and serve that entire sentence? He’s already been in the clink for almost a decade and a half at least?
PK: Seventeen years.
VR: Seventeen. So do you think he gets out and doesn’t have to do the whole bid?
PK: That only way that happens is if the king of Morocco pardons him. That’s the only way. The only hope.
VR: Do you see any hope for that?
PK: I do. I’ll say this. I’ll say that I know the king has pardoned people that have done far worse crimes after a few years of their sentence. There was a couple of controversial things that happened a few years ago where horrible, horrible crimes – much worse than robbing and scaring these people like Lee did. And that’s the question, I don’t think that the king even knows the details of this.
My understanding of how the government works in Morocco is you have the government that runs all these institutions, the king stays out of it until he decides he wants to get involved. And then what he says, goes. So I don’t know if he knows the details of what happened. I don’t know if he’s even involved in it. I don’t know if he had to sign off on the prosecution. I know he’s a big MMA fan. I know that. I know he’s very good friends with a particular MMA fighter.
PK: They’re brothers.
VR: Unfortunately, yeah. Well, that might be your in. You can just tell him it’s the lost Wu-Tang album that Martin Shkreli had. Just say “Put this in your DVD player. It’s an audiovisual experience.” Gotta believe in magic, you don’t think? From Texas with love?
PK: I dunno if he’s gonna see it. I think it’s… my position is again, I’m not, I don’t condone anything they did. They should’ve gone to prison. I don’t think you can argue that anything positive can come from keeping Lee Murray in prison longer than he’s already served. The hostages themselves, they endured an hour and a half of terrifying stuff. Colin Dixon, Lynn Dixon, it was a little longer than that. It was a bad night. Not discrediting that or discounting it in the slightest.
Lee Murray has served a thousandfold harsher sentence than anyone else in this. He did it. He did the crime, he has to do this. But I think it’s clear looking at the facts of this that he didn’t do anything more than anybody else did in this yet has a 28 year prison sentence in Morocco. You can’t compare that to a 15-year prison sentence in the UK. It’s harsh, brutal, historically a terrible place to go to prison. And yeah, I just don’t know what good can come of him being locked up.
VR: Well, you concluded a mammoth project, congratulations on the release. I’m seeing very positive receptions, I personally loved it and I’m really glad that you were able to pack this with so much detail and show so much of the range in terms of highs and lows of everything with this story. Not just Lee’s life and fighting career, but everything that revolved around that. So I gotta ask: as detail-oriented as you are, what’s your next move? Do you have your eyes on your next project and what would that be?
PK: We’re deep into the next one. We can’t, unfortunately, can’t yet discuss that. But yes, it’s another wild one. Another wild one, good story. But there’s always something that we’re working on.
Catching Lightning is available for streaming on Showtime.
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