- Armed robbers raided the £800,000 rural home of City trader Danny Aston, 30
- They held Mr Aston, 30, at gunpoint as they tied up his girlfriend Amy Jay, 31
- Mr Aston was then made to transfer his holding of the cyber currency Bitcoin
- Detectives believe robbers knew about his fortune because of his prolific trading
Armed robbers raided the home of a City trader and forced him to transfer his Bitcoin fortune to them.
Four thugs wearing balaclavas stormed Danny Aston’s £800,000 converted barn in rural Oxfordshire.
They held Mr Aston, 30, at gunpoint as they tied up his girlfriend Amy Jay, 31, and put the couple’s child outside in a buggy.
They then made Mr Aston transfer his holding of Bitcoin – a cyber currency currently worth £8,000 per coin – to them on his computer in what is thought to be the first raid of its kind in Britain.
The village of Moulsford (pictured in a general view), which has featured in several episodes of Midsomer Murders, was the scene for the UK’s first armed Bitcoin heist
Detectives believe the robbers, who were still being hunted last night, knew about his fortune because of his prolific trading accounts on the internet.
On just one account, Mr Aston has carried out more than 100,000 trades with 16,375 people in less than three years. He is considered a ‘trusted’ trader by more than 3,000 users. It is not known how much he was forced to transfer.
Bitcoin exists only in cyberspace and can be exchanged anonymously at the click of a mouse. It is then exchanged for normal money. It is favoured by criminals because it cannot be tracked by officials, making it difficult to catch thieves and money-launderers.
The family have been in hiding since the raid last Monday morning at their home in Moulsford, where several episodes of Midsomer Murders have been filmed.
Staff and children were locked inside a nearby independent school, Cranford House, as police used a helicopter to track the suspects and searched the village for clues.
A mother on the school run said: ‘I saw four young men in black tracksuits with the hoods pulled up, crossing the road to the property where it took place. They were aged 18 to 25, dark-skinned and super-fit. They jumped over the fence on the other side of the road.
A gang of four armed raiders stormed a barn in the village of Moulsford, Oxfordshire, on Monday
‘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. 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.’
A neighbour said: ‘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.’
Another resident said: ‘The village is in a state of shock. For something like this to happen here is terrifying. It’s a very quiet place.’
Thames Valley Police said that the men wore balaclavas and were seen scaling a fence near the house. A spokesman said: ‘Officers were called at about 9.40am to a report that offenders had entered a residential property and threatened the occupants.
‘No one was seriously injured during the incident.
‘Officers are particularly interested in speaking to anyone travelling through the village between 7.30am and 10.30am last 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.’
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.’
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
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.