In light of last weeks, record busting, £53 million ($92.6 million USD) Securitas Depot Heist
, taking place just outside London, I thought I'd do a run down of some of the Great British Blags (that's robberies for our U.S cousins). The following post lists a number of high profile and extremely large heists which have been taken down by London based Crews.
Reading this post will show you that the London underworld has a long tradition of producing gangs of villains capable of pulling off such large scale, audacious robberies, un matched by any other.
All of these jobs make the Lufthansa heist
, made infamous by Goodfellas
, look like taking candy from a baby...___________________________________________________________
// Great British Blags.
I'll start with the most recent first. I'm only mentioning robberies with a specific relevance to London (hence my not mentioning other UK robberies such as the £26 million I.R.A bank job of last year).Successful Scores.• Kent Securitas Depot Heist, £53 million ($92.6 million USD), 2006.The 2006 Kent Securitas Depot heist
, of just last week, is, at just over £53 million ($92.6 million USD), the biggest ever organised gang robbery of cash, anywhere in the world (there is one cash robbery bigger: Sadam Hussien used the Iraqi army to 'withdraw' $1 billion dollars from Iraqs central bank, during the bombing of Baghdad. Obviously there is quite a difference between an army taking money from a chaotic warzone and organised criminals pulling a heist in one of the most civilised countries in the world.).
It dwarves the biggest ever U.S robbery by a staggering $73.7 million dollars. So much for London/UK gangsters being "gay" then eh...
The robbery took place in Tonbridge, just outside of London and was planned and carried out with military precision, most likely by an organised crime gang out of South London (just like Brinx Mat and the foiled Dome Diamond heist, also discussed in this post. Infact one of the main suspects in this case was accused of involvement in the latter). The heist went down in three stages:1st:
Two gang members, disguised as police officers driving a car dressed up with flashing blue lights as an un-marked patrol vehicle, pull over the cash depot manager as he drives home along the motorway (freeway). The gang members then hand-cuff and kidnap the depot manager.2nd:
Two other gang members, also posing as police officers, go to the depot managers family home and inform his wife that her husband has been involved in an accident and that she should come with them to the 'police station'. The gang then take the depot managers wife and eight-year old son hostage in a farm building in the Kent countryside.
At this point the depot manager is also taken to the farm building where the family are tied up at gun point and the gang tell the depot manager that his wife and son will be killed if he does not cooperate.3rd:
In the early hours of the morning the gang raids the cash depot. The depot manager and his family are taken by the armed gang to the depot where the gang force the manager to let one of their number into the compound. Once inside the compound the gunman forces staff to open the compound and the rest of the gang enter in several vehicles.
The staff inside the compound are all bound up at gun point by an armed gang of at least six men (the logistical arm of the crime would have to be much bigger). The gang then take over an hour to load the unprecedented haul of new and used banknotes into several vehicles, including a 7.5 tonne truck and a van dressed up as a mail service van. An hour later the staff manage to free themselves and activate an alarm alerting the police, however the gang are long gone.
The gang escapes with the biggest haul in organised criminal history, after a heist that went like clockwork.
A job like that would have involved months of planning and surveillance, with the kind of expertise that could only come from hardened, veteran criminals, something which London has no shortage of; it's just the latest and largest in a long tradition of such audacious robberies, which are somewhat of a speciality in the London underworld.• Knightsbridge Security Deposit robbery, £40 million ($70 million USD), 1987.The 1987 Knightsbridge Security Deposit Robbery
was, until recently, the biggest robbery in world history. The haul, comprised of cash and valuables from safety deposit boxes, totalled £40 million ($70 million USD). Adjusted for inflation to today's value, the haul is worth a total of £66 million ($117 million USD); to put that into perspective, the 1978 Lufthansa heist made famous by Goodfellas
was worth $6 million USD ($18 million USD at today's inflation), meagre by comparison.
The Knightsbridge Security Deposit Robbery was carried out in audacious fashion by Valerio Viccei
and a single accomplice who requested to rent a safe deposit box. On being shown the vault the pair pulled out firearms and secured the vault and the bank, they then let in further accomplices and successfully made off with, what was at the time, the worlds largest ever haul. Viccei's finger print was later identified on one of the safety deposit boxes and he and his accomplices caught. Viccei was later shot dead by the police in Italy.• Brinks Mat Heist, £26 million ($45 million USD), 1983.The 1983 Brinks Mat Robbery
, also a bigger score than any U.S mob ever pulled off, has all the ingredients of a Hollywood blockbuster (including a bigger score than the NY mob would know what to do with). The final total of the score came to £26 million ($45 million USD). Adjusted for inflation to today's value, the haul is worth a total of £48 million ($85 million USD), so in real terms, it can still be called one of the very biggest heists in history.
The score was taken down by a gang headed up by notorious London gangsters 'Mad' Mickey McAvoy and Brian 'the Colonel' Robinson, who's sister was living with a guard from the Brinx Mat depot (the gangs not so incognito inside man). The gang had laid down and executed a detailed plain to pull the score on the high security Brinks Mat compound at Heathrow. However the gang got more than they bargained for, when the staff (after being doused in Petrol
) opened the vault, the gang had to change their plans mid heist as what was intended as a score of cash turned into a score of £26 million in bars of solid gold bullion, that was waiting to be transferred to the far east. As a result of the scale of the score, members of the gang left to get more suitable vehicles and in all it took two hours for them to take the job down.
Due to the scale and nature of the robbery, McAvoy and 'the Colonel' had to seek the services of more skilled gangsters, "bigger fish", from the London underworld. The gang called in the expert services of a shady villain known as 'the Fox', a well connected fence from the London underground, a senior figure in UK crime with associations with many London gangs, including the notorious 'Adams family'. 'The Fox' used his skill and contacts to smelt down and launder the bullion.
Soon after the robbery it became clear that Brian 'the Colonel' Robinson was involved through his sisters partner and Mickey McAvoy had moved out of his south London council house and into a mansion in the Kent countryside, going so far as buying two Rottweiler dogs to protect it, naming them 'Brinks' and 'Mat'. When the police discovered the inside man from the job, it wasn't long before he started naming the men involved, who were now living lives of luxury. Both Robinson and McAvoy were eventually arrested and sentenced to 25 years imprisonment.
On being sent down, McAvoy entrusted his share of the gold to several associates, including Brian Perry, who witheld the money when McAvoy tried to do a deal with the police. Whilst McAvoy was inside, 'The Fox' who had eluded capture, pointed the finger at Perry, saying that he had betrayed the gang and taken the gold, though 'The Fox' himself was living in even greater wealth. Perry was later arrested for having handled the gold and during his trial received a letter threatening him with death if he continued to withold the gold, pointing out that the gang would not be in prison forever. Perry never did hand over any gold, however he was shot dead on November 16th 2001. Mickey McAvoy, now free, resides in Spain.
For years the alleged mastermind behind the laundering of the score, 'The Fox', had remained unidentified. However, it later developed that Kenny Noye
had been introduced to the gang by Perry. Noye was placed under extremely high levels of police surveillance. Noye was a seemingly legitimate businessmen, however it would later emerge that he had links spanning from the high-end of the local London underground, to Eastern Europe, the United States, latin America and with groups such as the mafia. However, during his heavy surveillance, in January 1985, he killed an undercover police detective (John Fordham) on his property. At trial he escaped free of charge after the jury delivered a verdict of self-defence. Noye was also linked to two other murders- the execution of a car dealer who's body turned up on the Rainham marshes, on Londons' fringes, in 1990 and the murder of a private investigator in a pub car park in 1987. Noye was seemingly 'untouchable'.
In 1986, however, Noye would once again face a jury, along with a member of the Adams Family gang, Thomas Adams, after bars of gold were found in his property. Noye was successfully prosectuted on grounds of tax evasion and "conspiracy to handle Brinks Mat gold" and sentenced to an aggravated 15 year prison sentence (of which he was to serve 14 years). Noye's parting words to the jury in court were: "I hope you all die of cancer."
After serving 14 years Noye was released and he began rebuilding his criminal empire, however in June 1996 he murdered Stephen Cameron who had made a late lane change in front of him coming off of the M25 motorway (freeway). He stabbed Cameron in the heart and the liver, in full site of the victims fiancé, leaving him to bleed to death. The case became infamous as the road rage murder and a large man-hunt ensued. Noye was found in Spain in 1998 whilst trying to charter a private helicopter to France. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.
No doubt if Kenny Noye
was a New York mobster, Scorcesse or the like would have made a big budget film, glorifying his life and glamourising the Brinks Mat robbery; I'd say he was a cross between two of the Goodfellas
characters: Robert DeNiros calculating character in terms of his skill as a fence with elements of the sociopathic characteristics from Joe Pesci's maniac in terms of unrestrained, murderous violence.Most of the stolen £26 million Brinks Mat gold remains un found to this day.
It is suspected that it was invested in a variety of ways, from Drug trafficking to property in the London Docklands, which would by now have payed up extraordinary dividends. Legend has it that most modern jewellry in London has in it somewhere, part of the Brinks Mat haul.• Security Express, Shoreditch Depot Heist, £6 million ($10 million USD), 1983.
The 1983 Security Express heist
, of £6 million ($10 million USD) was, just like all the other heists listed here, the record breaker of its day, the biggest in the world at the time. Again, adjusted for inflation, at £11 million today's value ($19 million USD) this is no smaller even than the biggest ever U.S heist ($18.9million USD in 1997) and is bigger than the Lufhansa heist (adjusted at $18 million USD today) which was glamourised by Martin Scorcesse in Goodfellas
The gang that took down this heist included notoriously ruthless London gangster Freddie Foreman
, flamboyant Ronnie Knight
and his brother John Knight
. The hesit took place on Easter Monday 1983, when John Knight and a crew of armed robber stormed the supposedly impregnable Security Express depot in Shoreditch, they successfully subdued the staff and gained access to the vault. The gang got away scott free, leaving no clues that the police could pick up on.
Ronnie Knight then successfully laundered the cash. The five key suspects in the case (including the Knight brothers, Freddie Foreman, Ron Everett, John Mason and Clifford Saxe) fled to Spain who had no extradition treaty with at that time and became known as the famous five, living a glamourous life on what became known as the 'Costa del Crime'
, home to a huge number of notorious London gangsters, ranging from Kenny Noye of Brinks Mat fame to Europe's most wanted drugs baron- Mickey 'the Pimpernell' Green.
For years the gang escaped capture and they were celebrated by elements of the British tabloid press while they got in on the criminal action in Spain, moving in, along with other London villains on the drugs trade. It was even alleged that some of the proceeds were invested into setting up the Brinks Mat heist (detailed above).
Clifford Saxe was believed by the police to be the mastermind behind the heist but he was never charged, he died while awaiting extradition from the 'Costa del Crime'. Ronnie Knight was sentenced to 10 years in 1994 after pleading guilty to handling the money and his brother John to 22 years for his part in the heist.• The Great Train Robbery, £2.6 million ($4.6 million USD), 1963.The 1963 "Great Train Robbery"
was, again, a record setter in its day. Adjusted for inflation to today's value of the score is £16 million ($28.5 million USD), some sources claim that in real terms this raid would be equivalent to £40 million today ($69 million USD), either way, it is again
larger than any such robbery in the U.S.
This heist is probably the most well known and well covered of all the robberies on this list. It truly is infamous. From the life long game of cat and mouse that Ronnie Biggs
played with the police, to the story of how the robbers played monopoly with the stolen bank notes while they were holed up after the heist, this has to be one of the most famous episodes in British criminal history.
The heist was masterminded by Bruce Reynolds, who carefully studied the movements of cash and valuables on postal trains leaving London, making sure to select the perfect location to hit the train- close to London so as not to alert the police and close to heavy goods loading areas so that their vehicles would not look out of place. The score went down on August the 8th, 1963 at 3 past 3 in the early hours of the morning. The gang, dressed as rail way workers stopped the train, gained access to the Post Office Sorting Coach and made off with the majority of its contents.
Following the successful heist, the gang holed up in a nearby farm, where they played Monopoly with a quantity of the stolen bank money. However, under pressure from the police investigation the gang left the farm house in a hurry, leaving behind vital evidence, including fingerprints on the Monopoly set. The gang then attempted to flee the country, with one of the first Ronald 'Buster' Edwards making it to Mexico, where he would spend three years before returning to the UK to give himself up. 12 of the gang were jailed in 1964, sentenced to 307 years between them however two of that number, Charlie Wilson (the first to be arrested) and Ronnie Biggs, escaped. Wilson was captured in Canada in 1968, but Biggs evaded capture until he turned himself in, with his health failing, in 2001. Biggs became infamous for his life on the run, successfully evading capture on several occasions and using plastic surgery to alter his appearance, living in Spain, Australia and Brazil.Bungled Blags.• Foiled Millennium Dome Diamond Heist, £200 million ($350 million USD), 2000.
Though the £200 million Millennium Dome Diamond heist
was foiled at the last moment, it merits a mention for its sheer audacity and dimension, in terms of both the scale of the value of the heist and the scale and organisation of the operation. If it succeeded it would have been the robbery of the millennium, in every sense of the word.
If ever there was a real world heist that could compete with those of fanciful Hollywood action movies this was it.
It would make the fictionalised action of HEAT look like amateur night.
It has all the ingredients for an over the top action caper: organised, ruthless criminal gang; the worlds biggest ever criminal robbery, the biggest ever diamond; epic London Millennium Dome backdrop; giant JCB bulldozers used in armed storming of world famous Land mark (fresh from a Bond film); large scale, four month long police operation tipped off by rival gang; getaway speed-boats waiting on the river Thames; 100 armed police swooping in on the heist in progress.
The only thing is it actually happened!
It wasn't just the brainchild of some high-flying Hollywood scriptwriter.
In fact, now that I think about it, it would be a perfect
scenario for re-enactment in any GTAIV: 'London', it has all the over the top, action packed requirements for the game, except it actually happened!
Imagine re-enacting it: your armed gang storms the secure compound of world famous, iconic London Landmark, using buldozers and an array of weapons; you steal the worlds biggest ever diamond; you are ambushed by 100 armed police officers and a shootout ensues; you fight your way to high powered speed boats and are engaged in a high speed chase down the mighty river Thames; all the while knowing that what you are doing is based on rea life
, actual events!
. What the f*ck can Atlanta or Detroit or Seattle or Blandsville, Nowhere County U.S.A offer to top that?!?!? (That's even before
you go back to London to top it by stealing the Crown Jewels from the castle keep!)
And the ignorants like to claim that "nothing 'GTA-like' happens in London". Timeline for the heist.Pictures of the heist in progress.BBC portal.• Foiled Swissport Heathrow Depot Heist, £80 million ($140 million USD), 2004.The foiled Swisport Heathrow heist
of 2004, like the foiled Millennium Dome diamond heist, merits a mention for it sheer enormity, like the Diamond heist, if pulled off it would have been the biggest robbery in the world at £80 million ($140 million USD).
The heist (merely the latest in a long line at Heathrow
) was perpetrated by an armed, 8 man gang, on Monday 18th May 2004. They successfully forced their way into the compound, having legitimate papers to pick up a shipment, however as they attempted to make their getaway, armed police shot out the tires on their van. Two of the robbers managed to hijack another vehicle and escape.
The police were aware of the raid as they had been spending large resources in a large scale operation monitoring the Heathrow area after a string of large heists.
What all this shows clearly, is that London/UK villains can easily compete with anything New Yorks criminal underworld ever offered up. As I've said: these jobs make the Lufthansa heist
made infamous by Goodfellas
look like childsplay.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to romanticise crime here, it's just that all of this proves
that Londons' organised gangs can more than compete with anything the U.S underworld has ever produced; as testified by the fact
that they've pulled off (far) bigger scores. The profligacy of such audacious heists proves the extremely high levels of competence and skill present in the London underworld as well as the sheer size of the bollocks on such mobs that take down these huge scores. People who state anything to the contrary are clearly ignorant of the factual truth of the matter, that's all I'm doing here, disproving all the "Ludnod gnags aer teh ghey" muppets, by showing that they've pulled of bigger scores than (any of) their U.S cousins.London mobs have consistently pulled off bigger scores than anyone else in the criminal world. That's a fact.