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Notebook: MSU falls to Kentucky in overtime

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Morgan William knew she had to make a change in the second half. After scoring five points and committing three turnovers in the first half, William rebounded to play a more aggressive and assertive role in the second half of the No. 3 Mississippi State women’s basketball team’s 78-75 overtime loss to No. 22 Kentucky before a crowd of 5,244 at Memorial Gymnasium. William committed only one more turnovers in 24 minutes in the second half. She also had 20 points, five assists, four rebounds, and two blocked shots, which doubled her total entering the game.

“I just attacked the basket,” William said. “I looked for my shot and I looked to get to the rim. I was being passive in the first half, so I figured it was up to me to step up in the second half for my team.”

William attacked the basket consistently in the second half, either getting to the rim or pulling up for mid-range jump shots. She also used her speed to dart into the gaps to work herself free for open shots.

“I thought that first half we had a lot of issues with the point guard position,” MSU coach Vic Schaefer said. “I thought Morgan (William) played very well in the second half and we ironed some of that out.”

William stayed strong despite picking up her fourth foul with 5 minutes, 21 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Her drive with 8.0 seconds left tied the game at 67 and set the stage for overtime. The final seconds weren’t without drama, though, as Evelyn Akhator appeared to make contact with William on a drive to the basket. Teaira McCowan then blocked Akhator’s shot to send the game to the extra session. McCowan blocked the shot despite having four fouls. In the overtime, William also had a runner that tied the game at 73, but the Bulldogs couldn’t string together one more positive possession to build a cushion.

“Basically, Coach just told me to guard the ball, attack the basket because we ended up giving them bonus, and just put our heads down and attack like they were doing us,” William said. “We had all the fouls, so we weren’t playing aggressive enough. We weren’t getting to the rim, but once we started getting to the rim we made them run.”

Lost in the shuffle of the drama in the fourth quarter and overtime was a 3-pointer by William at the end of the first quarter. The shot initially was ruled good, but the officials used video review to overturn the call. Turnover problems

Lost in MSU’s fast start — it led 10-2 and by seven three times in the first quarter — were 12 turnovers in the first half. That total was more than 10 games the Bulldogs have played this season, including an 11-turnover effort against Texas A&M. MSU committed the turnovers without being pressed and seeing very little half-court trap. Chinwe Okorie had three turnovers (one on a charge and one on a travel), while William committed three. That total was more than 18 games she has played this season.

For the game, MSU had a season-high 22. It had committed 20 only one time (Hawaii) entering the game. The Bulldogs entered the game averaging 13.2 turnovers per game.

“I didn’t even know they had 22,” Kentucky senior guard Makayla Epps said. “One of the things that was on our scouting report about Mississippi State is they force their opponent into 20-plus turnovers. We have done a really good job this year of taking care of the ball. That is just a shout out to everybody on the team for doing their job.

“Coach told us ball security and taking care of the ball and executing our plays would be big in this game. Morgan William had four (turnovers). That is very uncharacteristic of her. I have a lot of respect for her. (Victoria) Vivians had four. That is uncharacteristic, and one of the (other) kids had six. That is just us being in the right place at the right time and moving and being in the right position and working hard to get steals and turn the ball over.”

Schaefer said the Bulldogs tried to do too much with the basketball. That assessment accurately reflected MSU’s four turnovers in overtime. One was a pass that went off the hands of McCowan, one was a lost handle on a drive to the basket, one came on an entry pass to McCowan in the post, and the last one came on Vivians’ drive in which she was called for traveling.

“We had people trying to do things that they didn’t need to do,” Schaefer said. “Again, it was my fault for putting them in those positions. It’s my job as a coach to put them in positions where they can be successful. We can’t turn the ball over like that. We have to take better care of the ball, but that’s how Kentucky is. They’re really handsy, they steal and they do a really good job at it, so you have to take extra care of the ball. We just didn’t do that tonight. I’ve got to do a better job of making sure our kids understand that. Akhator goes off in fourth quarter, overtime

Schaefer credited Kentucky after the game for outhustling and being tougher than his team. He said one of the keys was how his team wasn’t able to handle Akhator, the 6-foot-3 senior forward, who tied for game-high scoring honors with 27 points. She was 11 of 20 from the field and had 16 rebounds, including six on the offensive end.

“We go over one down every day and the way we guarded it tonight, it looked like Ned in the third grade,” Schaefer said. “We didn’t guard it hardly at all. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, and I was literally going insane on a couple things we kept doing over and over again. Obviously I didn’t do a very good job of coaching my kids tonight, but this should be about Kentucky. They did a tremendous job tonight and those kids played extremely well and hard and you have to take your hat off to them.”

Kentucky coach Matthew Mitchell said MSU is one of the few teams in the Southeastern Conference that relies on a player-to-player defense virtually all of the time. Schaefer said the Bulldogs used some zone, but he said very little worked.

“With the way that they play, they give you some driving opportunities,” Mitchell said. “They’re probably the only team in the league that we’ve seen do that. We thought we had an advantage there if we could get the ball to her. We worked hard over the last couple of days to try to get in our mind what we needed to do to win. One of the keys for her was to not post up, sit on the block, and try to play a power game with them. Try to step off the block, get to the high post, and try to step out on the short corner. It was an incredible performance from her.”

Still winless

Schaefer entered the season with wins against every SEC team except South Carolina and Kentucky. MSU lost to South Carolina 64-61 on Jan. 23 in Columbia, South Carolina. The Gamecocks have won the last nine meetings against the Bulldogs. Kentucky entered the game having won the last 10 meetings against MSU. The Wildcats earned an 83-60 victory against the Bulldogs last season in Athens.

The last meeting in Lexington — a 92-90 double-overtime decision — featured a freshman-record 39 points by Vivians. The Wildcats won on a putback at the buzzer by Epps. The senior guard did it again Thursday night as part of a 22-point night. Missed opportunity

MSU will have to wait until 4 p.m. Sunday, when it plays host to Tennessee at Humphrey Coliseum, for its last chance to earn its first share or outright SEC regular-season title. William said the Bulldogs missed an opportunity to take care of business against the Wildcats.

“It was just an opportunity we missed out on,” William said. “We didn’t handle business, so it is a lost opportunity right now.”

Fast starts

MSU and Kentucky would have loved to continue the pace they set in the first quarter. The Bulldogs led 19-18 after William’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was waved off. MSU shot 8 of 14 from the field (57.1 percent), while Kentucky shot 6 of 13 (46.2 percent). Even though MSU slipped to 5 of 13 in the second quarter, it still shot 48.1 percent for the first 20 minutes. After shooting 5-for-36 against Ole Miss and Georgia, Vivians continued to re-discover her shooting touch. Vivians was 4 of 7 from the field (2 of 3 from 3-point range) and had 10 points in the first quarter. She was coming off a 7-for-19 shooting effort (25 points) in a 72-67 victory against then-No. 23 Texas A&M on Sunday.

Vivians attempted only one shot in eight minutes in the second quarter. She finished 8 of 17 from the field (4 of 9 from 3-point range) and 7 of 19 from the free-throw line. Kentucky weathered the storm for the final 7:59 of the first half after sophomore guard Maci Morris picked up her second foul. She sat out the rest of the half. Taylor Murray helped pick up the slack by scoring 10 points in the first half. The sophomore guard was 3 of 7 from the field and 4 of 6 from the free-throw line. She epitomized the Wildcats’ effort in the first half by attacking MSU point guards William and Jazzmun Holmes.

Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor

Michigan attorney general joins 9 AGs to oppose ballast water bill

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is joining nine other attorneys general to oppose a bill in the U.S. Senate. It would change how ballast water in ships is regulated. Invasive species can hitch a ride in ballast water. The bill would create a single, national standard and pre-empt states from creating their own standards.

The shipping industry likes that. But the attorneys general are concerned about losing the ability to have stricter state standards. Attorney General Schuette did not grant an interview for this story. But in a letter to Senators Mitch McConnell and Charles Schumer, the AGs say the bill would dramatically weaken defenses against invasive species. From the letter:

The Clean Water Act requires the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to scientifically develop and regularly improve uniform minimum pollution treatment standards, and then incorporate them as discharge requirements in permits that are renewed every five years. The Commercial Vessel Act takes the radical step of eliminating these vital Clean Water Act protections and relegates EPA the federal agency with the greatest knowledge and experience in addressing water pollution to an advisory role. The Commercial Vessel Act vests primary responsibility for controlling vessel pollution with the U.S. Coast Guard, an agency mainly focused on homeland security that has little water pollution expertise. Right now, the EPA and the Coast Guard share authority for regulating ballast water. The bill would make the Coast Guard the lead agency.

Rebecca Riley is a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Chicago. She says the bill would weaken the EPA s authority.

It would exempt ballast water from the Clean Water Act, and the Clean Water Act is a law with a long track record for protecting our waters and making them as clean as they possibly can be. The whole point of this legislation is to exempt ballast water from the Clean Water Act s protections, she says. Senator Roger Wicker from Mississippi sponsored the bill. His office said he was not available for an interview, but his press secretary sent this statement:

The bill (S.168) would create nationally uniform, science-based standards for ballast water discharges that would be consistent with the highest standards technologically possible. By creating a single national standard, ballast water management system manufacturers should be able to more quickly improve their technology. Although the Coast Guard would only review the standards once every ten years, Governors would be authorized to petition the Secretary to review more stringent standards. If those standards could be achieved and detected, and the technology and systems exist and are commercially available, they would become the new national standard.

The USCG is charged with 11 statutory missions. Of those, one relates specifically to environmental protection Marine Environmental Protection. The Coast Guard s Marine Environmental Protection program develops and enforces regulations to avert the introduction of invasive species into the maritime environment, prevent unauthorized ocean dumping, and prevent oil and chemical spills. As a result, the Coast Guard dedicates considerable resources to this mission. Charging the Coast Guard with the development of a national standard for ballast water regulations makes sense as the agency is already partly responsible for the development of ballast water standards and regulation, certification of ballast water technology, and enforcement of ballast water regulation.

Those opposed to the bill say it puts commercial shipping interests on equal footing with environmental protection.

“If you cooperate, no one will get hurt. Otherwise,” one abductor warned the bank depot manager, “you’ll get a hole …

“If You Cooperate, No One Will Get Hurt. Otherwise,” One Abductor Warned The Bank Depot Manager, “you'll Get A Hole ...

At first glance it seemed like typical MMA clickbait, a low-rent version of Conor McGregor threatening to box against Floyd Mayweather, or Demi Lovato trolling for a professional fight. England s Daily Star recently reported that Alex Reid and Lee Murray were in talks to meet in a cage. Reid, a former MMA fighter and British tabloid heavyweight, is best known for his brief marriage to model Katie Price and his turn on Celebrity Big Brother. As for Murray, he too is a former fighter; he made it to the UFC and once went the distance with the great Anderson Silva. It s hard to imagine how he could meet an assignation to fight, however, given that he s currently incarcerated in Morocco. While he s there on drug-related charges, he s best known for having masterminded the Securitas Heist, this century s equivalent of the Great Train Robbery. In 2006, with his professional fighting career on the decline, Murray rounded up a group of friends and training partners. Posing as policemen, they abducted a guard, entered a repository where currency was transferred among banks, and absconded with 53 million, or roughly $100 million at the time. (It would have been more, if only Murray and his crew had thought to rent a larger van.) As it was, theirs constituted the largest cash heist in history pulled off without a single physical injury or even a bullet being fired.

As slick and organized as the thieves were during the actual heist, they were equally clumsy afterward. Because they hadn’t thought through where to store the cash, they ended up stashing bills in closets. They abandoned one of the vehicles used in the crime and set it afire in the middle of a field, attracting attention. Inside another vehicle the bandits carelessly left ski masks, guns and more than 1 million in bills. The gang members soon began accusing each other of informing the police. The son of a British mother and a Moroccan father, Murray fled to Morocco, which does not have an extradition policy with the U.K. But there Murray found himself involved in an altercation in a Rabat shopping mall, and when his home was searched police found drugs. He was sent to prison in Morocco, where he has resided since 2007, notwithstanding an attempted escape using tiny saws that were snuck in inside of biscuits. In 10, Murray was convicted of masterminding the Securitas Heist and he faces 25 years in prison. It is still to be determined whether he will be extradited. In 2008, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED covered Murray and the Securitas Heist in a magazine story titled Breaking the Bank. While the piece was optioned by Universal Studios and ran in print, British laws about ongoing criminal cases prevented the story from running online at the time. With the case s criminal trials finally resolved, we are permitted to present this SI True Crime classic.

With flashing blue lights illuminating his rearview mirror, Colin Dixon pulled his car to the side of a deserted road. It was around six on the evening of Feb. 21, 2006, and Dixon had just clocked out from his job at the Securitas cash depot in Tonbridge, England, 30 miles southeast of central London. A purposely nondescript, brown building tucked behind a car repair garage, the depot serves as a regional warehouse of sorts, where cash for the Bank of England is stored and disbursed. Dixon, 52, was the manager.

Now, driving home, he figured he was getting pulled over by an unmarked police car for a routine traffic stop. A tall, athletic-looking man in a police uniform approached. Though it would turn out that the cop was no cop at all the uniform was fake, the Kent police badge he flashed had been purchased on eBay, and the guy’s face had been distorted with help from a professional makeup artist Dixon was compliant. He got out of his Nissan sedan and was handcuffed and placed in the back of the other car. He would later testify that the driver, a second man in uniform, turned and said menacingly, You will have guessed we are not policemen…. Don’t do anything silly and you won’t get hurt. When Dixon tried to adjust his handcuffs, he says the officer who’d apprehended him brandished a pistol and barked, We’re not f—— about. This is a nine-millimeter.

“If You Cooperate, No One Will Get Hurt. Otherwise,” One Abductor Warned The Bank Depot Manager, “you'll Get A Hole ...

Police examine the car of Securitas depot manager Colin Dixon, which was found abandoned by a pub. GARETH FULLER/AFP/Getty Images

Dixon was blindfolded and transferred to a van, then taken to a remote farm in western Kent. Meanwhile, two other fake cops drove to Dixon’s home in the nearby town of Herne Bay, along with accomplices in a second van. Greeted at the door by Dixon’s wife, Lynn, they explained that her husband had been in a serious traffic accident. They said that Lynn and the couple’s young child needed to accompany them to the hospital. Outside the home, the Dixons were placed in the back of the second van and taken to the farm, where the Dixons were reunited. At once relieved and terrified, they were bound and held at gunpoint. Colin Dixon was ordered to give the plotters information about the depot. If you cooperate, no one will get hurt. Otherwise, one abductor warned, you’ll get a hole in you.

If you cooperate, no one will get hurt. Otherwise, one abductor warned the bank depot manager, you’ll get a hole in you.

A group of at least seven men then drove to the Securitas depot, Colin Dixon accompanying a phony police officer in a sedan and his family bound in the back of a large, white Renault truck. By now it was after midnight on the morning of Feb. 22. Surveillance video shows Dixon being buzzed into the depot with an officer beside him. Once inside, the fake cop overpowers the security guard and buzzes in the rest of the robbers wearing ski masks and armed with high-powered weapons, including an AK-47. Dixon told the 14 staffers working the graveyard shift, They’ve got my family, and instructed them not to touch the alarms. He proceeded to deactivate the security system and hand over the keys to the vault. The Dixons and the staff were then bound and placed in metal cages normally used for storing cash. The truck can be seen backing up to a loading dock.

“If You Cooperate, No One Will Get Hurt. Otherwise,” One Abductor Warned The Bank Depot Manager, “you'll Get A Hole ...

The truck used to transport the money, parked at the loading dock of the Securitas depot. Kent Police via Getty Images

The robbers clearly knew their way around the depot where the doors were located and how they locked and with good reason. One member of the gang, Ermir Hysenaj, 28, an Albanian immigrant, was the classic inside man. Months earlier, after just a 10-minute job interview, Hysenaj had been hired for roughly $11 an hour to work the evening shift at the depot. It was later revealed that in the weeks before the robbery, he had come to work wearing a small video camera hidden in his belt buckle. For the next 40 minutes, the gang emptied the vault of its contents, wheeling metal carts filled with cash into the truck. The supply of 10 and 20 notes was so massive that by the time the truck was filled to capacity, it accounted for only one quarter of the money in the vault. Still, the conspirators absconded with a haul of 53 million, or more than $100 million.

The supply of 10 and 20 notes was so massive that by the time the truck was filled to capacity, it accounted for only one quarter of the money in the vault. Still, the conspirators absconded with a haul of 53 million, or more than $100 million. If the caper didn’t entail pyrotechnics worthy of, say, the current movie The Bank Job, it seemed to come off remarkably smoothly, at least from the robbers’ perspective. All their discipline and meticulous preparation had paid off. There were no surprises. No one was physically injured, much less ventilated with bullets. No one had triggered the alarms. At around 3 a.m., Dixon’s child was able to slither out of a metal cage and the police were summoned. By then the thieves were back at the farm divvying up the money a bounty that one British prosecutor would later characterize as dishonest gain almost beyond the dreams of avarice. As investigators worked to crack the case, they began to suspect that the ringleader was Lee Murray, and that he and his pal Lea Rusha were the impostors who had first abducted Colin Dixon. Murray was no stranger to London law enforcement. He spent time in a juvenile detention center as an adolescent and later was tried and acquitted in a serious road-rage incident. Ironically, he’d also been questioned by police after a traffic stop in the area of the Securitas depot the summer before the robbery. But he was a prominent figure in pockets of the sports community as well, a fearsome British cage fighter who’d recently gone the distance against the great Brazilian champion Anderson Silva. Murray lost a decision and was paid the equivalent of a few thousand dollars for that fight. Now, Kent police contended, he was a fugitive in Morocco, luxuriating poolside at a villa in an upscale part of Rabat. Lightning Lee was now worth a small fortune in pounds sterling, they alleged, having just orchestrated the largest cash heist in history.

Lee Murray came into the world in 1977 with his fists balled, and he never quite seemed to unclench them. The son of a British mother and a Moroccan father his given name is Lee Lamrani Ibrahim Murray he grew up poor in public housing in a rough-and-tumble section near London’s East End.

His salvation, such as it was, came through fighting. It wasn’t so much what he did as who he was. By his own reckoning, he was a veteran of hundreds of street fights, lining up his target, transferring his weight and then unloading punches that would seem to detonate on impact. After so many bare-knuckle brawls, he figured, not unreasonably, that he might as well get paid for his violence. He frequented boxing and kickboxing gyms, channeling some of his primal tendencies into mixed martial arts (MMA), the increasingly popular sport that combines the striking of boxing and Muay Thai with the ground game of wrestling and jujitsu. In particular Murray had designs on competing in the Octagon, the eight-sided cage used for bouts in the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the preeminent MMA league, which is headquartered in the U.S.

“If You Cooperate, No One Will Get Hurt. Otherwise,” One Abductor Warned The Bank Depot Manager, “you'll Get A Hole ...

Jules Annan/Photoshot/Getty Images

Murray recognized that while his stand-up fighting was exceptional, he was at a loss when a bout went to the ground. That is, he needed to improve his grappling and jujitsu, disciplines predicated less on brute strength and aggression than on technique and smarts. So in the winter of 2000 he packed a duffle bag, flew to the U.S. and made his way to gritty Bettendorf, Iowa. Pat Miletich, a former junior college wrestler and five-time UFC champion, had opened an MMA training gym in Bettendorf a few blocks from the banks of the Mississippi. Aspiring fighters came there from all over the world, making Miletich’s gym to fighters what Florence was to Renaissance painters though with bloodier canvasses. To this day, Miletich’s so-called Battlebox represents athletic Darwinism at its most brutal. Under the open-door policy, anyone is welcome to come and spar against a stable of regulars, many of whom have fought in the UFC. Self-styled tough guys show up every Monday. Those with the requisite skill and ruggedness stay. The other 95% are back on the interstate, bloodied and bruised, before sundown. Murray was one of the few who stuck it out. All bone and fast-twitch muscle, Murray was built like a sprinter. He stood 6’3″ but could cut weight and fight as light as 170 pounds. One Miletich fighter likened the kid with the Cockney accent to a British greyhound. Lee Murray had world-class punching power, recalls Robbie Lawler, a top mixed martial arts fighter who sparred frequently with Murray. Man, he would hit the mitts pop-pop-POP-POP and you would stop your workout and look over because it sounded like gunfire.

Lee Murray had world-class punching power, recalls Robbie Lawler. Man, he would hit the mitts pop-pop-POP-POP and you would stop your workout and look over because it sounded like gunfire. Murray crashed with other Miletich fighters before getting a room at a shopworn motel not far from the gym. He wasn’t averse to going out for a beer from time to time, but he’d come to America’s heartland to train. When he wasn’t in the gym, strip-mining Miletich for wrestling tips, he was lifting weights or going for runs under a big dome of Iowa sky. Not one sign of trouble, says Miletich. One of his first days, I told him, ‘It’s up to you how far you want to go in this sport. At your height and weight and the way you hit, you could be a champion.’ It was just a question of learning what to do once the fight hit the ground.

That spring, Murray entered a four-man MMA tournament in rural Wisconsin. After winning his first bout, Murray fought a burly Canadian, Joe Doerksen, now a UFC veteran. Murray showed his inexperience and got caught in a submission hold called an arm bar. He tapped out (surrendered) and cursed himself the entire drive back to Iowa. Having exhausted his budget, Murray returned to England. But he kept fighting and started to win. While MMA was becoming mainstream in the U.S., the sport was still an underground pursuit in the U.K. Still, among the niche audience Murray was regarded as perhaps England’s best fighter. He was one of those guys who rose to the occasion when he fought, says Paul Ivens, an instructor at the London Shootfighters Club, where Murray often trained. You get guys who are tough on the street but they crumble in a real fight. He was one of the fortunate ones who would bask under pressure.

“If You Cooperate, No One Will Get Hurt. Otherwise,” One Abductor Warned The Bank Depot Manager, “you'll Get A Hole ...

Jules Annan/Retna Pictures

In July 2002 Murray attended a UFC card at Royal Albert Hall in London. The UFC was trying to spread the gospel to the other side of the pond, and in addition to the fighters on the card, most of the organization’s brightest stars were on hand, including Miletich, Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell. The headline bout featured a Miletich fighter, Matt Hughes, defending his welterweight title. After the card ended, the fighters repaired to a local club for an after party, a long-standing UFC tradition. At closing time the fighters and their entourages filed out. Walking down the street, Miletich felt a body on his back. It turned out to be a buddy of Tito Ortiz’s. The guy was giving Miletich a playful bear hug, but suddenly Miletich felt the man getting ripped off his back. Another fighter had mistakenly believed that Miletich was being attacked. As the misunderstanding was being sorted out, Paul (the Enforcer) Allen, a longtime associate of Murray’s, approached. In what he surely thought was a show of loyalty to both Miletich and Murray, Allen cold-cocked Ortiz’s pal. This triggered what might rank as the Mother of All Street Fights, a scene that’s become as much a part of UFC lore as any bout inside the Octagon. A who’s who of the UFC and their entourages drunk and in street clothes began throwing haymakers indiscriminately. One posse member was knocked into the street and his arm was run over by a cab. Liddell got cracked in the back of the head and went ballistic. I’m hitting guys with spinning backfists, just dropping guys, says Liddell. It was a classic street fight. ‘If I don’t know you, I drop you.’

I’m hitting guys with spinning backfists, just dropping guys. It was a classic street fight. ‘If I don’t know you, I drop you’, says MMA legend Chuck Lidell of the most famous street fight. In the mayhem Ortiz and Murray backed into an alley and squared off. According to multiple witnesses, Ortiz threw a left hook. He missed, and Murray then fired off a combination that decked Ortiz. The self-proclaimed Bad Boy of the UFC fell to the pavement. (Ortiz declined to comment to SI.) Officially, Murray was still a promising up-and-comer. But as accounts of the melee rocketed through UFC circles, the rangy British kid who poleaxed the mighty Tito Ortiz became a minor legend. He’s a scary son of a bitch, says the UFC’s outspoken president, Dana White. And I don’t mean fighterwise.

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As for sanctioned fights, Murray continued to win those too, mostly with devastating knockouts. In July 2003, he took on the well-regarded Brazilian fighter Jos (Pel ) Landi-Jons at a London event. After getting pummeled for a round, Murray regrouped and starched Pel with a right hand. He’s probably still in the ring, probably still sleeping, catchin’ flies, Murray gloated in the postfight interview, mimicking the dazed, open-mouthed look of his opponent. I know now that … [the] UFC have gotta open their eyes to me, they gotta take me. There’s no ifs or buts. Sure enough, six months later Murray was summoned by the UFC to fight on a Las Vegas card. Concealing the inconvenient detail that he’d recently been questioned about his involvement in a road-rage incident that left a middle-aged motorist in a coma he was later charged with causing grievous bodily harm, but the jury failed to reach a verdict Murray flew to the U.S. He won the fight in the first round, trapping his opponent’s head between his legs as he tried for a triangle choke, then finishing him off with an arm bar, hyperextending the man’s elbow joint. He had reached the highest level, and all of his discipline and preparation had paid off: He’d won with a classic jujitsu maneuver, proving he was no one-dimensional fighter.

He’s a scary son of a bitch, UFC’s outspoken president, Dana White, said of Murray. And I don’t mean fighterwise. Murray’s next bout came in the summer of 2004 in Cage Rage, a British UFC knockoff. He was pitted against Anderson Silva, the ferocious Brazilian who is currently the Zeus of MMA. Emboldened by his recent success, Murray snarled at Silva at the weigh-in. He talked an unbelievable amount of s—, Silva remembers. He said, ‘I’m gonna do to you what I did to your friend Pel .’ According to Silva, at one point Murray spotted a pair of his fighting shorts hanging from a chair. Murray grabbed them, ripped off a Brazilian flag patch and tossed it at Silva. Though both fighters dispensed and withstood considerable punishment, Silva ended up winning by unanimous decision. As the two shook hands, Silva winked and pushed a gift into Murray’s palm. It was the patch of the Brazilian flag. Still, Murray did himself proud, all the more so in retrospect, as Silva would go on to become one of the UFC’s brightest stars.

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But in September 2005, while training for an upcoming fight at Wembley Stadium, Murray attended a birthday party for a British model at Funky Buddha, a trendy club in London’s Mayfair district. At around 3:15 a.m., a street brawl broke out. Murray was stabbed repeatedly in the chest, suffering a punctured lung and a severed artery. As he explained in a 2005 interview with the website MMAweekly.com, One of my friends got involved in the fight. I tried to help him because about six or seven guys was on [him]. That’s when I got stabbed. I got stabbed in the head first. I thought it was a punch. When I felt the blood coming down my face, I just wiped the blood and just continued to fight. Next, I looked down at my chest and blood was literally shooting out of my chest…. It was literally flying out of my chest like a yard in front of me…. I died three times. They said, ‘Because you’re an athlete and all the training you put your body through, that’s what saved your life.’

I got stabbed in the head first. I thought it was a punch, said Murray. Next, I looked down at my chest and blood was literally shooting out of my chest…. It was literally flying out of my chest like a yard in front of me…. I died three times. They said, ‘Because you’re an athlete and all the training you put your body through, that’s what saved your life.’

In the same interview, he casually noted that he had been stabbed outside the same club a week earlier. On that occasion, he’d only had one of his nipples sliced off. It was just a minor stabbing, like these things happen every night of the week, says Andy Geer, a British promoter for Cage Rage. He had stab wounds, bullet wounds. He was a proper from-the-streets kid. Three weeks after the stabbing, though covered in zippers of scars, Murray had resumed his training in the gym. But realistically, his promising career was threatened. Particularly as mixed martial arts was becoming gentrified, what promoter would permit a man with such serious injuries to fight again? What if a scar opened during a fight? Murray may have realized as much, and that could have been an incentive to turn to crime.

The thieves took too much money. Had the Securitas gang made off with, say, a few million pounds, it might have been one thing. But the magnitude of the heist was such that overnight it became an international cause c l bre. Even the most staid British newspapers covered the case breathlessly and exhaustively. The surveillance video from the depot was televised nationally and, inevitably, made it online. Hundreds of British policemen were immediately deployed to investigate. Hefty reward money provided an incentive to anyone with any knowledge to come forward. The gang had no chance, says Howard Sounes, the British author of a forthcoming book on the heist.

The suspects, though, also did plenty to hasten their demise. Mirroring Murray’s fighting career disciplined and methodical in MMA; arrogant and unthinking in street brawls the same thieves who had been smooth and poised in the actual pilferage could scarcely have been sloppier in the aftermath. Some gang members boasted to friends about the heist. One of the vehicles used in the crime was set afire in the middle of a field, attracting attention. The money was poorly hidden. Ocean’s 11 quickly devolved into a comedy of errors that recalled the Al Pacino classic Dog Day Afternoon. That’s what happens, says Bruce Reynolds, the convicted mastermind of Britain’s Great Train Robbery of 1963 and now something of an armchair analyst of British crime. All the planning goes into the robbery and none goes into what happens once you have the money.

“If You Cooperate, No One Will Get Hurt. Otherwise,” One Abductor Warned The Bank Depot Manager, “you'll Get A Hole ...

A portion of the money recovered from the heist. AP

Within 48 hours, police had made their first arrest. Acting on a tip, they apprehended Michelle Hogg, a makeup artist and the daughter of a policeman. Police found a quantity of latex they alleged Hogg had used to make prosthetic disguises for the robbers. (Under questioning, Hogg gave a statement saying she was too scared to identify the thieves.) Later that day, police found the van used to hold the Dixons. The next day, acting on another tip, they located a second van used in the robbery. When they looked inside, they found guns, ski masks, bandannas and 1.3 million in cash. Acting on still another tip the following day, police raided the homes of Murray’s pal Lea Rusha, an aspiring mixed martial arts fighter, and Rusha’s friend Jetmir Bucpapa. In Rusha’s bedroom, police found plans of the Securitas depot, and hidden in a nearby garage was 8.6 million in cash. All told, within 10 days, five people had been charged. Millions of pounds had been recovered. And innumerable additional leads had surfaced. A gang of misfits and bruisers pulled off the biggest robbery ever with considerable criminal aplomb, says Sounes. But they were also stupid. This was a brilliant caper which turned into a farce.

“If You Cooperate, No One Will Get Hurt. Otherwise,” One Abductor Warned The Bank Depot Manager, “you'll Get A Hole ...

From left to right: Emir Hysenaj, Stuart John Royle, Lea John Rusha, Jetmir Bucpapa and Roger Coutts. AFP PHOTO/KENT POLICE/HANDOUT

The fate of the accused was sealed in the fall of 2006 when Hogg went QE (Queen’s Evidence), as the Brits say, and testified against her co-conspirators in exchange for her freedom. She explained how she created the disguises so the gang members who posed as police officers couldn’t be accurately identified. On Jan. 28, 2008, after seven months of trial during which more than 200 witnesses were called, five men including Rusha, Bucpapa and Hysenaj, the insider were found guilty for their part in the robbery and sentenced to a total of 140 years in jail. At the sentencing, authorities urged the public to resist romanticizing the caper. Fearing for their lives after giving extensive testimony, the Dixons entered the British equivalent of witness protection. So did Hogg, the makeup artist, who, according to multiple newspaper accounts, has a 7 million bounty on her head. This crime was, at heart, a crime of violence, Nigel Pilkington of the Crown Prosecution Service told reporters. And with more than half the loot still unaccounted for, he vowed to continue to pursue the case. This is not the end of the matter for these criminals, he said. We intend to seize their ill-gotten gains, wherever they may be.

As the Securitas gang was being rounded up systematically, Murray apparently did not stand idly by. He left the country, leaving his wife and two children behind. Accompanied by his friend Paul Allen he of the infamous UFC street brawl he drove from London to Dover. There, according to Kent police, the two piloted their car onto a ferry headed for France. Murray is believed to have then traveled from France to Amsterdam to Spain, where he and Allen crossed the Strait of Gibraltar by ferry before finally finding sanctuary in Morocco.

If Morocco has historically held a certain exotic allure for Europeans, Murray is believed to have gone there for more practical reasons. Because of his lineage on his father’s side, Murray is considered a Moroccan national. And Morocco has no formal extradition agreement with Great Britain. By all accounts, Murray lived lavishly in Northern Africa. He, Allen and two other friends from England, Gary Armitage and Mustafa Basar, lived in a villa in Souissi, an upscale district popular with diplomats, in Morocco’s capital city, Rabat. They tooled around town in a Mercedes and spent prodigious amounts of money on clothes, jewelry, electronic equipment and jaunts to Casablanca.

“If You Cooperate, No One Will Get Hurt. Otherwise,” One Abductor Warned The Bank Depot Manager, “you'll Get A Hole ...

Paul Allen (left) and Gary Armitage. ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images

After a few months, Murray reportedly spent close to $1 million on a concrete manor around the corner from a cousin of Morocco’s king, Mohammed VI, outfitting it with an additional 200,000 in upgrades that include marble floors and a fully equipped gym. He also commissioned a giant mural above the hot tub, depicting his victory in his one and only UFC fight. Allen bought a property of his own nearby.

“If You Cooperate, No One Will Get Hurt. Otherwise,” One Abductor Warned The Bank Depot Manager, “you'll Get A Hole ...

The mural Murray had commissioned for his home in Morocco. JAMES MILLS/DAILY MAIL

Shortly after Murray’s arrival in Morocco in March ’06, the Kent police and Scotland Yard officials handling the investigation contacted Moroccan authorities and conveyed their concerns. Likely unbeknownst to Murray, almost from the day he arrived in the country he was under 24-hour surveillance. On June 25, 2006, dozens of Moroccan police sealed off a portion of the Mega Mall in Rabat, where Murray, Allen, Armitage and Basar were shopping. Because some of the suspects were experts in martial arts (and were potentially carrying weapons), the small army of police officers was armed. After a physical struggle, the four men were arrested. A Kent police spokeswoman asserted that Murray was arrested for offenses linked to the 53 million Securitas raid. Murray and three of his friends were charged with drug possession and for violently resisting when police arrested them at the mall, a crime a Moroccan judge termed beating and humiliating members of the security forces.

When the Moroccan police went to Murray’s residence, they found cocaine and marijuana. The four men were charged with drug possession and for violently resisting when police arrested them at the mall, a crime a Moroccan judge termed beating and humiliating members of the security forces. They were found guilty and in February 2007 received sentences ranging from four to eight months in prison. Armitage and Basar were released soon after for time served and returned to the U.K. Allen was extradited by the British government and is currently in a British jail, awaiting trial for his alleged role in the heist.

“If You Cooperate, No One Will Get Hurt. Otherwise,” One Abductor Warned The Bank Depot Manager, “you'll Get A Hole ...

Murray (right) being taken to Sake Court to stand trial in Morocco. ABDELHAK SENNA/AFP/Getty Images

Murray’s situation was somewhat more complicated. Because of his Moroccan heritage, the U.K.’s extradition request was initially denied. The British government has been putting a lot of pressure on Morocco, says Abdellah Benlamhidi Aissaoui, Murray’s lawyer in Morocco. But Moroccan nationals cannot be extradited [from Morocco]. That is the law, and the law should govern. The Moroccan government discussed swapping Murray for Mohamed Karbouzi, a suspected terrorist living in London and sought for questioning in a 2003 Casablanca bombing. But the British government reportedly declined the exchange. Aissaoui says he has also heard that Britain might file a formal request to have Murray tried for the Securitas heist by Moroccan authorities in Morocco. While the extradition mess is being sorted out, Murray, at the behest of Britain, sits in a jail cell just outside Rabat, a caged cage fighter. It’s tough for him, says his lawyer. He states that he’s innocent. He has not participated in this robbery. He made money from his fights. He doesn’t need to do this.

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If Murray was in fact the ringleader, the Mr. Big, it wouldn’t surprise Reynolds, the Great Train Robber. He compares a heist to sport. You’re challenging the authority of the state the challenge is what it’s all about, says Reynolds, now 76 and living outside London. [Same as] Jesse James and Pancho Villa. What about the money? It’s a benchmark. Everyone wants to beat the record. It’s like [Formula One] drivers want to beat Michael Schumacher’s record.

Murray isn’t granting interviews these days (his lawyer says that for Murray to speak to SI is impossible right now ), much less speaking publicly about his guilt or innocence with respect to the heist. But he told a friend this story: After learning about Murray’s saga the street fights, the stabbing, the Securitas accusation a London casino wrote him a formal letter explaining that he was no longer welcome at the establishment. That was fine by Murray. He says he wrote a quick note back: Haven’t you already heard? I hit the jackpot. “If You Cooperate, No One Will Get Hurt. Otherwise,” One Abductor Warned The Bank Depot Manager, “you'll Get A Hole ...

“If You Cooperate, No One Will Get Hurt. Otherwise,” One Abductor Warned The Bank Depot Manager, “you'll Get A Hole ...

SI True Crime[1], an ongoing series from SPORTS ILLUSTRATED, dives deep on stories of sports crime and punishment through in-depth storytelling, enhanced photos, video and interactive elements.

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References

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