Armed robbers broke into the family home of a city financier turned Bitcoin trader and forced him to transfer the digital currency at gunpoint, in what is believed to be the first heist of its kind in the UK.
Four robbers in balaclavas forced their way into the home of Danny Aston, 30, who runs a digital currency trading firm, before reportedly tying up a woman and forcing Mr Aston to transfer an unknown quantity of the cryptocurrency.
Mr Aston lives in the picturesque village of Moulsford in South Oxfordshire, where episodes of Midsomer Murders have been filmed, in a rented four-bedroom converted barn estimated to be worth at least £700,000 on a private drive.
Police were called at around 9.40am on Monday to attend the home after raiders are reported to have entered the property by kicking down the door.
The Mail on Sunday reported that the men tied up a woman and kept a baby outside in a pram while forcing Mr Aston to transfer the Bitcoin. The value of a single Bitcoin is now around £8,000.
A neighbour confirmed on Sunday the property where the violent burglary took place, but said that Mr Aston and a woman believed to be his partner left Moulsford on Monday to stay with relatives and have not returned.
They said: “I was not here at the time, but I know 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. It is not what you expect to happen around here.”
Mr Aston – who lives with his 31-year-old business partner Amy Jay, according to the latest Companies House records – previously worked at Trayport, a London-based financial software company that operates a platform for trading energy commodities.
In June 2017, he established his own digital currency firm just before Bitcoin’s huge surge in value in July, according to Companies House.
Both Mr Aston and Ms Jay are listed online as directors of Aston Digital Currencies Ltd, and a company called Butler Hosting, which specialises in “data processing, hosting and related activities”.
A user named Danny Aston has previously been active on trading site Poloniex, which allows users to trade and store digital currency.
A local resident described the victim of the attack as well-known, but suggested that the small village community had been left dazed by the news.
“Everyone is shocked I think,” he said. “We think we live in a safer space, and then this happens and everyone gets scared.”
The village of Moulsford is home to two schools and a girl from Cranford House Prepatory School described how the students were told to get to safety as the armed robbery happened nearby.
She said: “We were all told to get down on the floor and stay in the middle of the schoolroom. All the curtains were closed and the doors locked. No-one knew what was going on but it was scary to say the least.”
Bitcoin is a digital currency that allows users to trade anonymously and securely across the internet without regulation or a central bank
It is understood that although Bitcoin’s secrecy will make the theft in Moulsford much more difficult for the police to investigate, there is a chance that the stolen currency will appear on the market as thieves try to exchange it into conventional money.
In the last 12 months, Bitcoin’s value has risen over 1000 per cent. It hit an all-time high on 17th December, when it was worth over £13,500.
A police spokesman said: “Thames Valley Police is investigating an aggravated burglary which occurred at a property in Moulsford on Monday.
“Officers were called at about 9.40am to a report that offenders had entered a residential property off Reading Road and threatened the occupants. No one was seriously injured during the incident.
“An investigation into the incident is underway and officers attended nearby Moulsford School as a precautionary measure. It is not believed there was a threat to anyone at the school.
“Officers are particularly interested in speaking to anyone travelling through the village on the A329 Reading Road between 7.30am and 10.30am on Monday who has Dashcam footage or anyone with mobile phone footage.
“People in the local community may notice an increased presence of officers in the area while our enquiries are ongoing. The investigation is in its early stages however initial enquiries suggest this may be a targeted incident.
“No arrests have been made at this stage.”
By Tony Diver for The Telegraph