Armed robbers broke into a house in a wealthy Home Counties village and forced a cyber-currency trader to transfer a fortune in Bitcoin to them on his computer.
The heist – believed to be the first of its kind in Britain – comes as the virtual currency has soared in value to just under £8,000 for a single coin.
Four thugs in balaclavas broke into the house. They tied up the man’s wife and put the couple’s baby outside in a pram, before threatening him with a gun and forcing him to transfer his Bitcoin into their control.
The village of Moulsford, Oxfordshire (pictured) was the scene for the UK’s first armed Bitcoin heist after four armed robbers threatened a cyber-currency trader
The target of the robbery on Monday morning was a trader in the Oxfordshire village of Moulsford, where several episodes of Midsomer Murders have been filmed.
Bitcoin is favoured by criminals because it cannot be tracked by government officials, making it extremely difficult to track down the raiders.
It exists only in cyberspace and can be exchanged anonymously at the click of a mouse and then exchanged for normal money.
Horrified staff and children were locked inside a nearby independent school, Cranford House, as police deployed a helicopter to track the suspects while detectives quizzed locals and trawled through their bins for clues.
Cranford House headmaster Dr James Raymond emailed parents with Thames Valley Police’s appeal for witnesses – specifically for dashcam footage and anyone who saw four men acting suspiciously in the village.
A mother on the school run told The Mail on Sunday: ‘I saw four young men in black tracksuits with the hoods pulled up, crossing the road to the property where it took place.’
She added: ‘They were aged 18 to 25, dark-skinned and super-fit. They jumped over the fence on the other side of the road. I didn’t see any gun, but that’s what people locally are saying – and that the men wore balaclavas which I didn’t see either, just the hoodies pulled up.
The heist comes as the virtual currency Bitcoin has soared in value to just under £8,000 for a single coin
‘It was a strange time for them to choose because there are always so many parents coming and going directly opposite.
‘I’d be amazed if more people didn’t see them.’
Another Moulsford resident said: ‘The village is in a real state of shock right now. For something like this to happen here is terrifying. It’s a very quiet place and, although there is a lot of money round here, a digital currency heist is the last thing anyone would expect – particularly during the school run.’
Last night, a Thames Valley Police spokesman confirmed an ‘aggravated burglary’ took place in Moulsford and said they believed the property was targeted.
Crypto-currency experts said the growing attention around Bitcoin could encourage other criminals to use similar tactics.
Mark Shone, chief executive of Explain The Market, said: ‘These are criminals who have likely caught on to the current popularity of Bitcoin.
‘But depending on how much they have, these coins are like being in possession of a rare painting. Trying to exchange large amounts for normal money without alerting suspicion will be very difficult.’
The police spokesman said: ‘Officers were called at about 9.40am to a report that offenders had entered a residential property off Reading Road and threatened the occupants. No one was seriously injured during the incident.
‘Officers are particularly interested in speaking to anyone travelling through the village on the A329 Reading Road between 7.30am and 10.30am on Monday who has dashcam footage, or anyone with mobile-phone footage.
‘People in the local community may notice an increased presence of officers in the area while our inquiries are ongoing. The investigation is in its early stages, however initial inquiries suggest this may be a targeted incident.
‘No arrests have been made at this stage and anyone with any information relating to the incident is asked to call Thames Valley Police on the non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.’