Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On This Day In 1983...

Six robbers broke into the Brink's-MAT warehouse at Heathrow Airport, looking to steal some cash. These robbers were, apparently, quite a well-organized and ruthless lot; they posed as security guards to get into the warehouse and, once in, doused one of the legitimate guards in gasoline and threatened to set him on fire if he didn't give them the combination to the vault. The vault turned out not to be stuffed with cash as they had expected, but with gold ingots, so they had to settle for making off with 6,800 of these instead--about £26 million worth of gold in 1983 currency.

(My mathematically minded husband points out* that, assuming no non-gold stolen goods like gems or cash are included in the £26 million figure and assuming he got the historical exchange rates right, that's enough gold to fill approximately 40.29 1-gallon milk jugs, and each of those jugs would weigh about 140 pounds. That's a lot of heavy gold to haul out to your getaway car. I hope for their sake that they brought a dolly or a wagon or something.)

Unfortunately for the robbers, they were just a little too well-organized for their own good. The police couldn't help but notice that they had seemed to possess inside knowledge of the warehouse's security procedures, and they started questioning Anthony Black, a guard who worked at the warehouse. This led to the arrest and conviction of two of the robbers--one of whom was Black's brother-in-law.

The stolen gold was never fully recovered. Kenneth Noye was caught fencing some of it in 1985 and eleven complete bars were found in his house (he'd attempted to launder the rest of it by melting it and mixing it with copper coins) and police in Austria confiscated ten bars from some suspects they had arrested at a hotel in Vienna--but the bars turned out to be counterfeits made of gold-coated tungsten, which the arrested suspects (who had nothing to do with the original robbery) planned to sell as genuine artifacts from the Heathrow robbery.

By the way, if you're thinking, "Wow, this is such a dramatic story, I wonder why no one's made it into a movie yet?" right about now, you should know that someone totally has. It was made for TV and only has a 6.5 out of 10 rating on IMDb, but it has Sean Bean in it. And if all robbers looked like Sean Bean, I would keep my front door unlocked and covered in signs that read "FREE DIAMONDS!"

*If you'd like to check his math, here are the resources he used:

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