A gang of four armed raiders stormed a barn in the village of Moulsford, Oxfordshire, on Monday
The victims of the UK’s first Bitcoin heist are hiding at a secret address after fleeing their pretty barn house after masked men robbed them at gunpoint.
A gang of four raiders stormed the barn, which sits on a private and small residential drive, on Monday and forced crypto-currency trader Danny Aston to transfer a fortune in Bitcoin to them on his computer.
A neighbour today confirmed the property where the violent Bitcoin robbery took place but said that Danny Aston and his partner Amy Jay had not been there since the terrifying robbery.
A young couple, aged 31 years and 30 years, were believed to live at the address from where they ran a business involved in the stockbroking and finance industry.
Mr Aston was understood to use the name ‘Goldiath’ in the online world and could have been targeted because because of that.
A neighbour living opposite the barn in the tiny Home Counties village of Moulsford, Oxfordshire, said: ‘I was not here at the time but I know the couple have left and are staying with relatives, they haven’t been back since.
‘We are all obviously a bit shaken up, even though a few days have passed now. It is not what you expect to happen around here.’
The gunmen forced crypto-currency trader Danny Aston to transfer a fortune in Bitcoin to them on his computer. The barn sits off a main road down a private and residential lane
The village of Moulsford is home to two schools and a girl from Cranford House Prepatory School described how the students were told to get to safety as the armed robbery happened nearby.
She said: ‘We were all told to get down on the floor and stay in the middle of the schoolroom. All the curtains were closed and the doors locked.
‘No-one knew what was going on but it was scary to say the least.’
The armed raiders entered the property by kicking down the door and the men kept a baby outside in a pram while forcing the couple to transfer across their Bitcoin currency by computer.
Police said the men were seen wearing balaclavas and jumping over a fence at the front of the private road by a passer-by on the school run in Moulsford.
The village of Moulsford (pictured), which has featured in several episodes of Midsomer Murders, was the scene for the UK’s first armed Bitcoin heist
A Thames Valley 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.
‘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.”
The group of cottages and houses are just off a main road and can only be entered through a private driveway.
The value of a single Bitcoin is currently around £8,000 and it has been linked to criminal activity since it’s inception.
Several episodes of Midsomer Murders have been filmed in the sleepy village of Moulsford.
WHAT IS A BITCOIN? A LOOK AT THE DIGITAL CURRENCY
What is a bitcoin?
Bitcoin is what is referred to as a ‘crypto-currency.’
It is the internet’s version of money – a unique pieces of digital property that can be transferred from one person to another.
Bitcoins are generated by using an open-source computer program to solve complex math problems. This process is known as mining.
Each Bitcoin has it’s own unique fingerprint and is defined by a public address and a private key – or strings of numbers and letters that give each a specific identity.
They are also characterized by their position in a public database of all Bitcoin transactions known as the blockchain.
The blockchain is maintained by a distributed network of computers around the world.
Because Bitcoins allow people to trade money without a third party getting involved, they have become popular with libertarians as well as technophiles, speculators — and criminals.
Where do Bitcoins come from?
People create Bitcoins through mining.
Mining is the process of solving complex math problems using computers running Bitcoin software.
These mining puzzles get increasingly harder as more Bitcoins enter circulation.
The rewards are cut in half at regular intervals due to a deliberate slowdown in the rate at which new Bitcoins enter circulation.
Who’s behind the currency?
Bitcoin was launched in 2009 by a person or group of people operating under the name Satoshi Nakamoto and then adopted by a small clutch of enthusiasts.
Nakamoto dropped off the map as Bitcoin began to attract widespread attention, but proponents say that doesn’t matter: the currency obeys its own, internal logic.
Dr Craig Wright was suspected as the creator following a report by Wired last year and he has now confirmed his identity as the cryptocurrency’s founder.
What’s a bitcoin worth?
Like any other currency, Bitcoins are only worth as much as you and your counterpart want them to be.
Bitcoins are lines of computer code that are digitally signed each time they travel from one owner to the next. Physical coin used as an illustration
In its early days, boosters swapped Bitcoins back and forth for minor favours or just as a game.
One website even gave them away for free.
As the market matured, the value of each Bitcoin grew.
Is the currency widely used?
Businesses ranging from blogging platform WordPress to retailer Overstock have jumped on the Bitcoin bandwagon amid a flurry of media coverage, but it’s not clear whether the currency has really taken off.
On the one hand, leading Bitcoin payment processor BitPay works with more than 20,000 businesses – roughly five times more than it did last year.
On the other, the total number of Bitcoin transactions has stayed roughly constant at between 60,000 and 70,000 per day over the same period, according to Bitcoin wallet site blockchain.info.
Is Bitcoin particularly vulnerable to counterfeiting?
The Bitcoin network works by harnessing individuals’ greed for the collective good.
A network of tech-savvy users called miners keep the system honest by pouring their computing power into a blockchain, a global running tally of every bitcoin transaction.
The blockchain prevents rogues from spending the same bitcoin twice, and the miners are rewarded for their efforts by being gifted with the occasional Bitcoin.
As long as miners keep the blockchain secure, counterfeiting shouldn’t be an issue.
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.’
Crypto-currency experts said the growing attention around Bitcoin could encourage other criminals to use similar tactics.
Guy 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.’