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The unusual suspect Robin Hood thief robbed banks and bookies and gave cash to homeless people

The partial proceeds of one heist turned up when a tightly-wound roll of £20 notes, each marked with 'RH', was dropped into the begging bowl of a homeless man.

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Bank robber Stephen Jackley... subject of the book The Unusual Suspect by Ben Machell

Bank robber Stephen Jackley... subject of the book The Unusual Suspect by Ben Machell

Bank robber Stephen Jackley... subject of the book The Unusual Suspect by Ben Machell

A string of sudden heists left UK cops hunting what they believed to be a sophisticated, dangerous and highly-professional criminal.

The robber terrorised bookies and bank staff with knives and hammers as he ordered that a backpack be stuffed with cash.

In less than 90 seconds he would be gone, leaving police with nothing to go on as the raider blended back into the streets as sirens wailed and blue lights flashed.

Over the course of four months he stole £11,000, and the police investigating the spate of robberies were none the wiser as to the suspect's identity.

The partial proceeds of one heist turned up when a tightly-wound roll of £20 notes, each marked with 'RH', was dropped into the begging bowl of a homeless man.

But the real story of this 'Robin Hood' who was, in his own mind, conducting a war against poverty and climate change, made Stephen Jackley a very unusual suspect.

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Stephen Jackley on his spree

Stephen Jackley on his spree

Stephen Jackley on his spree

His crime spree in south west England came to an end after his botched attempted to buy a gun in the United States put him behind bars.

When US marshals suggested that their UK police colleagues search the suspect's apartment at the University of Worcester they found meticulous notes and diaries detailing his many crimes.

Journalist Ben Machell has just written a new book, The Unusual Suspect, about Jackley's bizarre robbery spree and the motivation behind it.

"You look at the bare facts of what Stephen had done and think 'that's kind of mad' - you think of it as a caper, on some level it is exciting," he told the Sunday World.

"As you get deeper into the story and get acquainted with Stephen and his past and the factors that led him to the point where he believed this was the thing he was obligated to do, then you start to understand that inner world."

The book details Jackley's early life and difficult childhood with parents who each had profound psychiatric problems and his own late diagnosis of Asperger's Syndrome.

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Machell's book follows how Jackley brandished a pellet gun and a knife as he tried but failed to force a courier to let him into a bank in 2007.

The next day he was more successful when armed with a hammer and knife he surprised two staff members at a bookies, stealing £825.

In just four months he carried out eight robberies and attempted robberies in which £11,000 was stolen and Jackley had become obsessed with acquiring a gun in his bid to reach his target of £100,000.

"What's interesting, in speaking to the police and the detectives who were involved in trying to work out who was behind this, is that when you listen to them you kind of understand why it was so hard for them to get anywhere near finding him," said Machell.

"The idea that someone with zero criminal record would start their criminal career doing bank heists, it just doesn't happen. Playing the percentages, as police forces have to do, this person was going to be someone who was doing crimes in the past," he added.

Jackley's spree came to end when a Vermont gun shop owner spotted his ID as a fake and called the police, landing the English student in a top security prison for ten months.

Deported back to the UK in 2009, Jackley pleaded guilty to 18 charges and got a 12-year sentence before being released from prison in 2014.

While Machell is convinced that Jackley himself was genuine in his motives and believe he was trying to change the world, it's not a view shared by the police who brought him to justice.

"I think the police that prosecuted him take the view these are fantasies, these are delusions. The idea he was going to hit the jackpot and use it to form some pan-global NGO to save the world, that was just not going to happen," said Machell.

"The reality is that he travelled a lot. He spent this money going to Istanbul, in fairness to try and buy a gun there, but he spent a week there, seemingly travelling around Europe. "

There was also the matter of the trauma suffered by the staff at the banks, building societies and bookies caught up in Jackley's robberies.

"The fact is he was putting guns into people's faces and threatened people with knives, leaving a lot of people really traumatised.

"I don't think the police had an interest in his motivations, they only cared about his actions, which again you say that's fair enough," Machell said.

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