Where’s the CCTV? Attempted abduction at RAF Marham exposes the base’s lack of cameras

Tornado jets at RAF Marham (l) and the perimeter fence in one area of the base (r). Photo: Archant

Tornado jets at RAF Marham (l) and the perimeter fence in one area of the base (r). Photo: Archant - Credit: Archant

East Anglia's key RAF base – home to squadrons currently in a multi-million pound bombing campaign against Islamic State targets – is not protected by a perimeter CCTV system, the EDP can reveal today.

Security was tightened at RAF Marham after the attempted abduction. But a few weeks later our report

Security was tightened at RAF Marham after the attempted abduction. But a few weeks later our reporter was able to walk up to a low perimeter fence unchallenged. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

In the wake of the still unsolved abduction attempt of an airman at RAF Marham this summer, detectives have had to rely on CCTV images from a local shop to try to solve the mystery.

But RAF Marham itself, home to Tornado fighters and soon to be the base of $100m F35 Lightning II jets, has no cameras to scan large sections of its perimeter fence and the surrounding area.

A CCTV system could be installed for the cost of one missile which the Tornados are currently using in Iraq and Syria.

The gap in RAF Marham's surveillance capabilities was revealed when our reporter visited the site.

Have you seen these men? Police release E-fits of RAF Marham suspects. Picture Norfolk Police

Have you seen these men? Police release E-fits of RAF Marham suspects. Picture Norfolk Police - Credit: Archant


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An RAF Marham spokesman said they have security measures in place but wouldn't comment about the apparent gap in CCTV.

The lack of security cameras in the area and on the approaches to RAF Marham has hindered the police search for two suspects who tried to kidnap the serviceman on July 20. Norfolk Police appealed on Crimewatch on Monday for help.

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The EDP drove on every road around the base, a total of 11 miles, and saw one CCTV camera – at the Spar store on Burnthouse Drove, near the base's main entrance.

There is also one camera at a Costcutter store around 200 metres from the edge of the base.

RAF Marham perimeter fence in one section. Photo: Archant

RAF Marham perimeter fence in one section. Photo: Archant - Credit: Archant

A green mesh fence runs around the edge of RAF Marham, but in one place it is low enough to jump over and breach the initial perimeter of the home to the RAF's flagship bombers.

Our reporter walked up to the fence at this point, unchallenged.

It was chest high with no barbed wire or deterrent and could be climbed in seconds.

The rest of the base has a higher perimeter fence.

MP Keith Simpson has spoken of his concerns.

MP Keith Simpson has spoken of his concerns. - Credit: Colin Finch

RAF Lakenheath, in Suffolk, home to the 48th Fighter Wing of the USAF, does have CCTV on its perimeter.

Broadland MP Keith Simpson, who sits on Parliament's Intelligence and Security Committee, said: 'I would expect a major reassessment [of security] has been carried out after this incident [the attempted abduction], not least whether someone can just hop over a fence and get in.

'I would be amazed if they had not already started that kind of assessment.'

Mr Simpson said he was not sure of the situation at RAF Marham, but said CCTV coverage at military sites was normally based upon which areas needed to be protected and the potential threat to them. 'This is carefully assessed,' he said.

Detective Superintendent Paul Durham, left, and Assistant Chief Constable Nick Dean. Norfolk Police

Detective Superintendent Paul Durham, left, and Assistant Chief Constable Nick Dean. Norfolk Police have struggled with the lack of CCTV images. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2016

North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham said: 'The security of the airbase does affect the wider West Norfolk borough and what is mentioned here is of concern. I would very much hope that any possible defects in security would be corrected as soon as possible.'

The EDP asked the Ministry of Defence (MoD) under the Freedom of Information Act how many security cameras it had around the perimeter fence of RAF Marham.

The MoD acknowledged there was public interest in giving people a better understanding 'of our multilayered security arrangements at RAF Marham', but said releasing details could be used by someone wishing to enter the base illegally.

The spot where the attempted abduction took place on Wednesday, July 20, Squires Hill, is around 300 metres from the edge of the base and having security cameras around the perimeter fence may not have helped police in their investigation.

North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham. Picture: Matthew Usher.

North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

But police work so far has centred on trying to get any CCTV footage from the area they can which could help them find the suspects.

Norfolk Police said the CCTV they had found so far was 'patchy'.

Police have relied on low quality CCTV images from the nearby Costcutter store to trace people who may have been in the area at the time of the attempted kidnapping.

Around 150 security cameras and monitors could be installed on the perimeter fence for the cost of one Brimstone missile, which RAF Marham Tornados are dropping on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria from RAF Akrotiri in Cyprus.

Brimstone missiles cost £105,000 each and Paveway bombs, which RAF Tornados have also dropped, cost £22,000 each. The price of installing one CCTV camera and monitor on the perimeter fence of a business is around £600.

A spokesman for RAF Marham said: 'As a matter of policy neither the RAF nor the Ministry of Defence (MoD) discuss security measures at our stations, however, we can confirm that security measures in place at our units are robust and multi-layered and are not solely dependent on perimeter fencing.'

South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss, whose constituency covers the base, said: 'The security of personnel and their families is a priority and if changes need to be made to maintain the security of the base then I am supportive of this.'

Police's desperate search for CCTV

Police have no CCTV of the attempted abduction on Wednesday, July 20, the lead up to it or the aftermath.

They have appealed to drivers and anyone in the neighbourhood to come forward with their dashcam or CCTV footage.

Det Supt Paul Durham, who is leading the investigation, said in August that CCTV footage recovered by police so far was 'very challenging and patchy at best, in terms of geographical coverage'.

He described it as being 'hit and miss' in quality.

The closest camera to the attack site is at the Costcutter store on Squires Hill, but the two attackers did not appear to drive past the shop.

Police have managed to piece together some CCTV footage from the store.

It shows there were some people in the area at the time and they have released

CCTV images to find those people.

Norfolk police also received dozens of calls after the case appeared on the BBC's Crimewatch show on Monday night.

The cost of a bombing campaign

Since January this year, Tornados have dropped approximately 75 Brimstone missiles and 260 Paveway bombs on the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria.

Targets have included trucks and military hardware.

On August 7, two Tornados dropped four Paveway bombs and four Brimstone missiles on tankers in northern Syria, which they believed were being used by IS to extract oil from oil fields.

RAF Tornados dropped 10 Brimstone missiles and 12 Paveway bombs in total in August in Iraq and Syria.

The cost of bombs and missiles dropped by Tornados since January is around £13m, according to our analysis of Ministry of Defence reports.

Marham overhauled

Major construction work is currently under way at RAF Marham which will see the base overhauled.

Around £300m of infrastructure work is taking place to prepare Marham for the arrival of Britain's most expensive jet – the F-35B Lightning II.

There will be a new access road and gate at White Lane to give contractors access to the base.

The planning application for the security gate at White Lane shows there will be security barriers, a box to house security guards and passes, concrete posts and a two metre high fence.

There is no mention of CCTV in the planning application to West Norfolk Borough Council.

The new jets will cost around $100m each and should arrive at Marham from summer 2018.

The jets will spearhead the reformed Dambuster 617 Squadron from the west Norfolk airbase and the UK is expected to buy 138 F-35s.

RAF Marham contributes 15pc towards the local economy and at the height of the work there will be an extra 1,200 contractors working at the base.

•Do you have a story for the investigation unit? Email tom.bristow@archant.co.uk

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