TV star Ross Kemp got a close-up view of one of the most famous JCB diggers in the world during filming for an ITV programme about an infamous robbery attempt.
The former EastEnders actor turned investigative journalist visited JCB’s Rocester base during the making of a programme to mark the 20th anniversary of a thwarted attempt to steal millions of pounds worth of diamonds from the Millennium Dome.
During the foiled robbery bid, the thieves used a JCB backhoe loader to bulldoze the Dome’s perimeter fence and then crash through the attraction’s boundary wall and into the Money Zone where the diamonds were on display.
Ross was able to view the machine the thieves used – complete with modifications they made to execute their daring raid.
He said: “It was absolutely fascinating to see the actual JCB machine the robbers used in the Millennium Dome raid because it is so central to the story the programme tells.”
Observers often think the hole in the windscreen of the digger results from a bullet but it was actually caused by heat from the bonnet-mounted exhaust pipe, which broke off and hit the windscreen as it crashed through the Dome wall.
Because the front bucket of the machine was going to be raised in the air as the robbers bulldozed their way into the Dome, three holes were flame cut into the bucket so they could see where they were going.
With a cab built for one operator, the thieves also removed the machine’s rear control levers so four people could be accommodated inside.
The rear dipper and bucket was also removed to reduce the height of the machine.
Six men were jailed in 2001 for their part in the robbery.
The programme – called The Millennium Dome Heist with Ross Kemp – is broadcast on ITV1 tonight (November 11) at 9pm.