Lee Lamrani Ibrahim "Lightning" Murray (Arabic: لي العمراني إبراهيم موراي) is an English-Moroccan mixed martial artist and convicted bank robber. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail in June 2010 for masterminding a 2006 £53 million armed raid in Kent, UK. His term was then extended to 25 years on 30 November 2010.
On his mother Barbara Murray's side, Lee's family hails from Bermondsey, a densely populated part of south London located between Tower Bridge and the Old Kent Road, and also an area that has been a traditional breeding ground for professional criminals, especially armed robbers. Following World War II, the Murrays were among thousands of working-class families relocated from bomb-ravaged inner London to council estates on the outskirts of the capital. The particular location of the Murray residence was 6 Godstow Road in Abbey Wood, located between Shooter's Hill - so named because it was once a notorious area for highway robbery - and the River Thames, in the southeast corner of Greater London.
Barbara Murray was a hairdresser and later a telephonist, and it was on a holiday to Gran Canaria that she met Lee's father, Brahim Lamrani, a kitchen hand from the southern Moroccan city of Sidi Ifni. The couple's first child, Lee would be born in St. Nicholas Hospital, Plumstead, on 12 November 1977, and was initially raised by his mother while Brahim continued to live and work in the Canary Islands. Eventually he came to the United Kingdom and married Barbara in 1984, and the following year she gave birth to Lee's only sibling, a daughter named Rkia.
By then the family were living a few miles from Abbey Wood at 11 Buttmarsh Close, Plumstead, and Murray attended Foxfield Primary School, where he would meet his eventual wife, Siobhan Rowlings, who was three years his junior. Murray's closest associates at this point were a group of other males from Buttmarsh and the surrounding estates who called themselves the "Buttmarsh Boys;" described as "happy kids" who used to "play like normal kids on the estate," the boys fought to establish a pecking order among the group and believed they had a duty to "look after" Buttmarsh, sometimes engaging in fights with boys from neighboring estates. A skinny youngster, Murray's preferred method of attack was running into battle wind-milling his arms around his head with a "manic" expression on his face, a maneuver that combined with his protruding ears earned him the nickname of "Alien," which he hated.
Murray had a difficult relationship with his father, who was often drunk and described as a "frightening, violent man" who was "volatile and domineering." Largely absent from the first seven years of Lee's life, Brahim demanded respect and obedience from his son, at one point garnering a warning from police for mistreatment. Eventually, Lee began to fight back against his father, with Lee's former next-door neighbor describing an incident where Brahim "actually went and hit Lee and Lee snapped, just turned round and knocked his Dad clean out...once he realized he could take down a big man like that I think that's what changed Lee into the man he is now - a thug." The relationship between father and son eventually grew so tempestuous that Brahim felt staying at home would result in either he or Lee killing the other, so he moved out. Barbara Murray was then left to raise Lee and Rkia largely on her own, and moved back to the Abbey Wood Estate by getting a council house on Grovebury Road around the corner from her parents.
At this time Lee began attending Eaglesfield Boys School, which is where he would meet his eventual best friend and partner-in-crime, Paul Allen. Murray - who does enjoy reading and puzzles - was a subpar student, and what little talent he did exhibit was in soccer, although he failed to make the school team. Murray's teachers found him to be unmanageable, resulting in his expulsion and eventual enrollment at Woolwich Polytechnic to complete the statutory years of his education. By then Murray was living life on the streets, with stealing and drug-dealing a part of everyday activity; he and the Buttmarsh Boys were allegedly in daily contact with Nigerian drug dealers who operated at Plumstead train station, and an eventual turf war broke out that saw Murray and his friends emerge victorious, leading to their inheritance of the local drug trade.
Murray would eventually be convicted of possession of cocaine and marijuana, in addition to being named in the Old Bailey as a notorious London drug dealer who employed Paul Allen as his right-hand man in addition to a network of drug runners. One of Murray's best friends from this time was a local ruffian and future mixed martial artist named Mark "The Beast" Epstein, who claimed that he and Lee sold crack cocaine and that Murray "made a lot of money from that." Murray also proved himself adept at the more violent side of selling drugs, typically in order to control territory and make sure customers pay. Murray himself claimed that "some people would probably say I was a bully, but a bully to me is someone that goes for easy targets and people who can't fight back. Me, I went for all targets." Murray was known for punching people almost at random in the street, as well as habitually harassing a man who ran a local corner shop.
Murray was soon sent to the Feltham Young Offenders Institution, the first of several custodial sentences for relatively minor offenses such as assault and thievery; he also served time as a juvenile in Dover and Norwich as well. Upon emerging from Feltham, Murray began attending the gym, lifting weights and drinking weight-gainer shakes in order to add bulk to his lanky, 6'3" frame. Joining him at the gym was Paul Allen, who by then was known as "The Enforcer," presumably because he assisted in enforcing Murray's control over drug-dealing in their small swath of south-east London.
Murray and Allen were soon using steroids and spending the money they earned from selling drugs on cars, typically of the big, flashy variety. The police stopped Murray regularly, and because they suspected he was a drug dealer attempted to place an informer in his group but failed to acquire sufficient evidence to prosecute. Murray was contemptuous of the police, often mocking and intimidating them on the streets, sometimes even following police officers around in his car. Some officers at Plumstead Police Station were afraid of Murray, and there was even a rumor within the station that certain policemen preferred not to confront him, with one stating that "he's a very dangerous man."
Murray's girlfriend Siobhan gave birth to his first child, a daughter named Lilly Jane on 24 December 1998. Just weeks later Murray was caught up in a turf war with rival drug dealers that led to the arrest of Epstein and more than a dozen others, many ultimately ending up in prison. Murray, however, got "clean away," with Epstein saying that "he was the only one that slipped through the net. I mean, lucky boy! But he's always been lucky...I went to prison for three years."
Murray would marry Siobhan on 24 November 2000, listing himself on their wedding certificate as a "professional fighter."
Mixed martial arts career
Shortly after dodging arrest Murray was introduced to mixed martial arts, and he competed in his first fight on 5 December 1999 at an event called "Millenium Brawl" that was held at Hemel Hempstead Pavilion. His opponent was Rob Hudson, and Murray knocked him out in the first round, prompting event promoter Andy Jardine to say, "He was so quick they called him 'Lightning' Lee Murray."
Murray's successful debut led him to begin training seriously; he jogged around the Abbey Wood Estate and attended two gyms - London Shootfighters in White City for wrestling, and Peacock's Gym in Canning Town for boxing. Martin Bowers, who ran Peacock's with his brothers Tony and Paul, described Murray as "a very nice boy" who "conducted himself well." Bowers said that Murray reminded him of many other young men who he'd seen in his gym over the years, men who'd come from troubled backgrounds but whose lives were given structure by sport. Notably, at the same time that Murray was training at Peacock's Gym the Bowers brothers were planning a series of robberies, the biggest being a brazen raid on a high-security warehouse at Gatwick Airport; their scheme involved disguising themselves as security officers, utilizing a phony Brink's-Mat van to get into the depot, and then stealing £1 million in foreign currency. After Scotland Yard found out about the planned heist all three brothers were arrested and jailed; it has been speculated that while Murray had no prior knowledge about the caper, the schematics that were later revealed publicly may have given him some of the ideas that were used in the not-dissimilar Securitas depot robbery.
Murray had four professional fights in 2000; the first was a 12 March encounter with Mike Tomlinson under the banner of "Ring of Truth." Murray won the fight via a kimura submission in the first round, but it was in February 2004 that he would expand on some of the events surrounding the fight. Writing on a message board in a now-archived thread from the mixed martial arts website Sherdog, Murray told the story of watching Prince Naseem Hamed's fight at a pub the night before his own match with Tomlinson; when a patron stood in front of Murray and then accused him of stealing his seat after being asked to move, Murray allegedly knocked the man and his friend who attempted to aid him unconscious, followed by utilizing knee-strikes to knock out a bartender who rushed to break up the fight. The following morning - and day of his fight with Tomlinson - Murray was unable to close his left hand; his friend (and former professional mixed martial artist) Dexter Casey examined the injury and said they needed to go to the hospital, but Murray claims to have refused. After taping the hand, Murray relied solely on his good (right) hand, stating that he "caught him [Tomlinson] with a few good rights...he was rocked so he took me down then I caught him in a keylock on the ground and won the fight...after that I went to the hospital and got my hand plastered up, it was broke in two places."
Murray's next two bouts took place on 17 June 2000 in a tournament fought at Extreme Challenge 34. Murray defeated his first opponent, Chris Albandia, by ankle lock in the first round. Murray would later say that he thought Albandia was a kickboxer because he was wearing Thai shorts, so he started the fight out with leg kicks. When Albandia surprised Murray by performing a single-leg takedown, Murray said he "sprawled and took him to the side of the cage where I was kneeing him and punching constantly. He dropped again and took me down, going for a leglock. So I grabbed his leg and went to trade leglocks with him. I cranked an achilles lock on and I think it must have snapped because there was a real loud crack. Even Pat heard it in my corner and when Chris got up he couldn't put weight on it. So I won that one."
The victory advanced Murray to the second round of the tournament, but he would lose by armbar to Canadian submission-specialist Joe Doerksen in the opening round. Murray said that when he "went into the final, I was so happy and excited about winning the first I just sort of lost my focus...[Doerksen's] a BJJ [Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu] guy who's only ever lost to Matt Hughes and Eugene Jackson. Anyway, he just took me straight to the ground. I didn't even make him pay while he tried. He launched a three sub attack at me with me in his guard. I fended off two and then got submitted with a keylock. I learnt a lot from that fight."
Murray's next fight was just weeks later, a 9 July contest against Danny Rushton, a fighter who had gained a reputation for toughness due to his competing in true no-holds-barred competitions in Russia. The match ended up a no-contest, however, after Rushton collapsed in the first round due to exhaustion.
At some point in 2000, Murray traveled to Bettendorf, Iowa to train at the renowned Miletich Fighting Systems camp run by former UFC welterweight champion Pat Miletich. In an interview conducted before the Rushton fight, Murray stated that while at MFS he trained a "hell of a lot of ground work. And a lot of kickboxing too. I prefer standup. Well, I just prefer to strike really. I like to keep the fight standing up and punch. Mind you, I like to punch from the mount too. I like to strike."
On 11 March 2001, Murray fought to a draw against Chris Bacon at Millennium Brawl 2: Capital Punishment; he followed that up with a first-round knockout of Gary Warren at Millennium Brawl 3: Independence Day on 1 July.
On September 11, 2004 Lee fought now UFC middle weight champion Anderson 'The Spider' in Cage Rage 8 for the vacant middleweight title. The fight last all 3 rounds but Anderson Silva was given the unanimous decision.
Lee amassed a 8-2-1 (1NC) record in smaller promotions before receiving a contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). In his UFC debut, he defeated Jorge Rivera by triangle choke/armbar in the first round. This was Murray's only fight in the UFC due to complications with his US visa as a result of ongoing criminal prosecution against him in the UK for assault after he attacked a man during a road rage incident. This led to Murray signing with the Cage Rage promotion, which was also short-lived due to injuries resulting from a stabbing preventing Lee from continuing his MMA career.
Murray was allegedly involved in a scuffle with then-UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz outside of a nightclub in London after UFC 38 in July 2002, in which Murray allegedly fought Ortiz. Murray asserts he knocked Ortiz out- a claim substantiated by Matt Hughes in his book "Made in America: The Most Dominant Champion in UFC History" (pg. 168), as well as Pat Miletich during an interview with ESPN. Tito Ortiz however denies he was knocked out.
On 28 September 2005, Murray was hospitalized after being stabbed in a brawl outside the Funky Buddha club in London during the birthday party of British glamour model Lauren Pope. He suffered a punctured lung and a severed artery. According to the doctor who performed the life saving surgery on Murray, he was resuscitated four times during the operation that saved his life. When thanked, the doctor remarked that Lee should thank the nurses who ran the bags of blood from the blood bank because that was what saved his life.
Securitas Depot robbery
See also: Securitas depot robbery
On 25 June 2006, in a joint operation with Moroccan police, Murray was arrested at a shopping centre in the Souissi district of the capital Rabat for suspected involvement in the Securitas depot robbery. Moroccan police said they had to use "specialist techniques to arrest the suspects because they were specialists in martial arts and firearms" Kent Police said in a statement that they had been tracking Murray for three months and would be seeking his extradition from Morocco. There is no treaty between the UK and Morroco, and the process was expected to take months. Later, Moroccan police revealed that Murray had also been charged with possession of "hard drugs". An officer said this could complicate extradition proceedings because, in theory, Murray would have to serve time in Morocco first for any offences committed there. On 27 June 2006 Kent Police confirmed the news of Murray's arrest in Morocco, and also stated that over 30 people had now been arrested in conjunction with the investigation.
In February 2007 it was reported that Murray could be returned to Britain in exchange for suspected terrorist Mohamed Karbouzi, who is wanted for questioning by the Moroccan authorities in connection with the 2003 Casablanca bombings.
In June 2009, an attempt to escape Sale prison in Morocco was made by Murray. Small saws were found in a plate of biscuits in Murray's cell by another prisoner who broke into it. Prison officials believe Murray was planning to cut through the iron bars of his cell window with the saws. To make the escape through the small window easier, Murray had lost a significant amount of weight recently through training hard and starving himself. Murray was in a different cell at the time as punishment for being caught with a laptop computer (with internet access) and five kilos of drugs. Other prisoners at Sale held it against Murray that he was able to use his money to smuggle in items like these, as well as expensive clothes. The fellow prisoner who broke into his cell was doing so to steal some of Murray's belongings. He was convicted of the £53m crime in a Moroccan court in June 2010. Kent Police said Murray must serve 10 years in jail in Morocco for his involvement. This Term was then extended to 25 years on November 30, 2010 However, in August 2011 there has been an unconfirmed report that Lee Murray may be freed this year. This is due to the actions of a forensics officer that worked on the case. Recently, the unnamed Kent officer was disciplined for disposing evidence in another case which forced police to inform Lee Murray's lawyers of the mishap.
Time Inc. announced on 4 August 2008 that they would be making a film about Lee Murray's alleged role in the robbery, based on an article about him in Sports Illustrated called "Breaking the Bank". In addition to the robbery, the film will also concentrate on Murray's life, including his mixed martial arts career.
Mixed martial arts record
Professional record breakdown [show]
Result Record Opponent Method Event Date Round Time Location Notes
Loss 8–2-1(1) Anderson Silva
Decision (unanimous) Cage Rage 8: Knights of the Octagon September 11, 2004 3 5:00 Wembley Conference Centre, London, England
Win 8–1-1(1) Jorge Rivera
Submission (triangle armbar) UFC 46
January 31, 2004 1 1:45 Mandalay Bay Events Center, Las Vegas, Nevada
Win 7–1-1(1) Jose Landi-Jons
KO (punches) EF 1: Genesis July 13, 2003 2 0:32 London, England
Win 6–1-1(1) Amir Rahnavardi KO (punches) Millennium Brawl 8 September 22, 2002 1 0:04 High Wycombe Judo Centre, High Wycombe, England
Win 5–1-1(1) Kama Boumna Submission (armbar) Millenium Brawl 7 June 16, 2002 1 0:20 High Wycombe Judo Centre, High Wycombe, England
Win 4–1-1(1) Gary Warren KO (punch) MB 3: Independence Day July 1, 2001 1 N/A High Wycombe Judo Centre, High Wycombe, England
Draw 3–1-1(1) Chris Bacon Draw MB 2: Capital Punishment March 11, 2001 3 5:00 High Wycombe Judo Centre, High Wycombe, England
NC 3–1(1) Danny Rushton No Contest ROT 2: Ring of Truth 2 July 9, 2000 1 4:00 England
Rushton collapses due to exhaustion.
Loss 3–1 Joe Doerksen
Submission (armbar) EC 34: Extreme Challenge 34 June 17, 2000 1 1:19 Hayward, Wisconsin, United States
Win 3–0 Chris Albandia Submission (heel hook) EC 34: Extreme Challenge 34 June 17, 2000 1 2:23 Hayward, Wisconsin, United States
Win 2–0 Mike Tomlinson Submission (kimura) ROT 1: Ring of Truth 1 March 1, 2000 1 0:56 England
Win 1–0 Rob Hudson KO (punches) MB 1: The Beginning May 5, 1999 1 N/A England