The Brink’s-Mat hold-up: The biggest gold robbery Daring Heist That Stunned Britain.

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BBC’s upcoming series, The Gold, has already caught the attention of viewers with its all-star cast and captivating heist-themed plot. But what many may not know is that the show is based on a real-life crime that shocked the nation: the Brink’s-Mat robbery. This notorious heist involved the theft of a staggering £26m worth of gold and uncut diamonds from a London bank, and despite its high-profile nature, only three individuals were ever jailed for it, with most of the money never being recovered. With the TV show set to tell the full story, here’s everything you need to know about this infamous crime that arguably still impacts the world of crime to this day.

The notorious Brink’s-Mat heist, considered one of the biggest in British history, took place on November 26th, 1983 at the Heathrow International Trading Estate in London. The daring raid saw six brazen thieves break into Unit 7 of the warehouse, which was operated by Brink’s-Mat, a joint venture between US security firm Brink’s and London-based company MAT Transport.

The same amount of gold would be worth about 250 million pounds at today’s prices, not 500 million like it said at the beginning of the documentary. It’s easier to do a calculation on the UK pound sterling, which means £26 million would be about £78 million in todays money.

Under the cover of darkness, the robbers forced their way into the facility with the help of security guard Anthony Black, who was later found to be complicit in the crime. Once inside, the gang doused the staff with petrol and threatened them with a lit match, demanding access to the vault’s combination numbers.

Their initial plan was to make off with £1 million, but to their surprise, they discovered a staggering three tonnes of pure gold bullion, worth £26 million (equivalent to £93.3 million in 2021), outside the main vault. The gold, which belonged to Johnson Matthey Bankers Ltd, had been stored at the warehouse overnight and was due to be shipped to Hong Kong the following day.

Along with the gold, the robbers made off with platinum, 1,000 carats of diamonds, and $250,000 in traveller’s cheques. Despite the subsequent arrests and convictions of Micky McAvoy and Brian Robinson for armed robbery, most of the gold has never been recovered. The losses were eventually covered by Lloyd’s of London, and the case has been linked to several shooting deaths over the years. The audacity and scale of the crime earned it the moniker “the crime of the century.”

Couple’s tip-off ignored by police after £26 million heist.

Two days after the infamous bullion robbery, a couple claimed to have witnessed a suspicious activity in their neighbor’s garden hut near Bath, Somerset. The couple immediately contacted the police suspecting a connection to the robbery, but the police deemed it outside their jurisdiction and passed on the information to the responsible authority. However, the couple were never asked to provide evidence in court or give a statement to the police. The police later discovered that Brian Robinson, who appeared in Flying Squad intelligence files, was linked to the robbery, Robinson and Micky McAvoy were arrested ten days later. Anthony White was also arrested but was acquitted later.

John Palmer, a jeweler and bullion dealer, was identified as the occupier of the raided premises in Bath where a furnace was found in January 1985, but he was on vacation in Tenerife at the time. His former partners, Garth Chappell and Terrence Patch were arrested. Police also received information about the sudden movement of £13 million through branches of Barclays Bank in the Bristol area. It was alleged that the Bank of England informed the police, although the Bank denied this.

Kenneth Noye was recruited by Brian Perry and George Francis to dispose of the gold. Noye melted down the bullion and recast it for sale, disguising the source by mixing in copper coins. He was later placed under police surveillance and encountered undercover Detective Constable John Fordham in January 1985. Noye claimed that he had acted in self-defense and killed Fordham, but he was found not guilty of murder at the trial. Brian Reader, who was also at the scene, was acquitted of murder.

In 1986, seven men, including Noye, Reader, Chappell, and Patch, were put on trial for handling the stolen gold. Palmer was deported from Brazil in 1986 and put on trial in 1987 but was cleared of all charges. John Fleming, another suspect, was held in Miami in 1986 and deported to the UK in 1987 but was released due to insufficient evidence.

In 1988, nine people, including Perry, solicitor Michael Relton, and McAvoy’s wife Kathleen, were arrested for conspiracy to handle stolen goods. Perry was accused of laundering £7.5 million, and Relton was accused of bringing smuggled money back to the UK to invest in London’s Docklands property boom. The jury failed to reach a verdict for Perry, who faced a retrial. Property developer Gordon Parry was also arrested in Fuengirola, Spain, in 1989 and charged with handling over £16 million. He was later tried with Perry, McAvoy’s first wife Jacqueline, Patrick Clark, and Jean Savage in 1991. The jury failed to reach a verdict for McAvoy, but her house was seized.

The Story of the Brink’s-Mat Robbery and its Aftermath

In 1983, the infamous Brink’s-Mat robbery shocked the world when thieves stole three tonnes of gold bullion from Heathrow Airport. The heist, which netted a record £26 million, made headlines for years as authorities struggled to recover the stolen gold and bring the perpetrators to justice.

Despite a reward of £2 million offered for information leading to the recovery of the gold, much of it has never been found. Only £1 million of gold was found stored at the Bank of England. In 1996, about half of the gold that had been melted and recast was thought to have found its way back into the legitimate gold market, including the reserves of the true owners, Johnson Matthey. Shockingly, some have claimed that anyone wearing gold jewellery bought in the UK after 1983 is probably wearing Brink’s-Mat gold.

Attempts by one of the robbers, McAvoy, to strike a deal to give back his share of the money in exchange for a reduced sentence failed, as by then the money had vanished. Meanwhile, Lloyd’s of London made a record insurance pay-out of £26 million.

By 1995, 57 people had assets frozen, including homes and a Kansas oil well, and insurers had recovered £16 million, including £3 million from Noye. In January of that year, the High Court ordered McAvoy to make a payment of £27,488,299, making him responsible for the entire sum stolen. White, who was acquitted of robbery, was also ordered by the High Court to repay the stolen £26 million plus £2.2 million in compensation, and his wife was ordered to repay £1.1 million. The judge said that he was satisfied that White was involved in planning the robbery. By 2004, a total of £25 million had been recovered.

In a bizarre twist, counterfeit gold bars bearing the refiner’s mark and serial numbers of bars stolen in the Brink’s-Mat robbery were recovered in Austria less than four weeks after the heist. The bars were gold-coated tungsten counterfeits, and the arrested men planned to fraudulently claim they were from the Heathrow robbery. No explanation was given as to how the counterfeiters obtained the unpublished bar serial numbers.

Panama papers: Brink’s Mat robbery details revealed.

The Panama Papers later revealed that Gordon Parry had laundered large amounts of cash from the robbery after the disposal of the gold.

Millions of pounds were put through offshore front companies via banks in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Jersey, and the Isle of Man. The funds were then recycled through transactions involving land in London Docklands, some buildings that used to form part of Cheltenham Ladies’ College, a farmhouse in Kent for McAvoy’s girlfriend Kathleen Meacock, and a £400,000 home for Parry and his family, Crockham House, near Chartwell, Kent.

The collapse of Johnson Matthey Bankers Ltd less than a year after the Brink’s-Mat robbery added to the scandal. The bank, which had made very large loans to fraudsters and insolvent businesses over several years, had serious and unexplained gaps in its records. Losses amounted to over US$300 million, and the fraud squad was called in to investigate the bank and certain customers.

The Brink’s-Mat robbery remains one of the most audacious heists in history, and its aftermath continues to fascinate and intrigue people to this day.

The Curse of Brinks-Mat John.

The infamous “Curse of Brink’s-Mat” has long haunted the London criminal underworld, with several men allegedly meeting their demise due to their involvement in the laundering of stolen gold. Charlie Wilson, a former treasurer of the Great Train Robbery, was suspected of drug smuggling and tasked with laundering £3 million from the Brink’s-Mat heist. When he failed to deliver, Wilson was shot dead in 1990 while living in Marbella, Spain.

Nick Whiting, an old school friend of Noye who was implicated in laundering, suffered a similar fate in 1990, being shot twice and stabbed. Donald Urquhart, another money launderer connected to the heist, was shot dead in January 1993 on Marylebone High Street. Graeme West and Geoffrey Heath were subsequently jailed for planning and carrying out Urquhart’s murder.

The death of John Palmer remains shrouded in mystery, with many questions left unanswered. The police were the first to suggest that there were a lot of things that didn’t seem right, and indeed there are. How was an assassin able to break into his home, shoot him six times, and have it mistaken for surgery wounds for five days? Who targeted John and why? His widow Mani says it doesn’t add up, with six bullet holes instead of the expected one from the keyhole surgery. The police investigation is ongoing, with detectives believing that the killer watched through a hole drilled in the fence and picked his moment to strike. John had been charged with processing gold stolen in the Brinks match raid of 1983, but was acquitted after claiming he didn’t know the gold was stolen. Since then, many of the gangsters, associates, and police officers involved have met early deaths, leading some to suggest a curse of Brinks Mat. With John’s connections to murky circles and timeshare fraud in Tenerife, the inquiry into his death continues, and the mystery surrounding it remains unsolved.

The violence continued in 1996 when Keith Hedley, a suspected money launderer, was shot dead on his yacht in the Mediterranean Sea. Solly Nahome, a Hatton Garden jeweller and “financer” associated with the Adams family, who were also suspected of involvement in the Brink’s-Mat gold laundering, was shot dead outside his home in December 1998. It was thought that Nahome and Gilbert Wynter, a jeweller who disappeared in March 1998, were killed over the disappearance of £800,000 from a cannabis deal, or as part of a power struggle between rival gangs.

Brian Perry was the next victim, being shot three times in the head in Deptford in November 2001. Then in May 2003, former Kray associate George Francis was shot dead outside his courier business in Bermondsey by John O’Flynn. Francis had allegedly been involved in the laundering of the Brink’s-Mat gold and had survived a previous attempt on his life in 1985 after refusing to pay £100,000 to have a jury acquit Lennie “Teddy Bear” Watkins, who was on trial for murder.

The most recent victim of the curse was John “Goldfinger” Palmer, who was shot dead on June 24, 2015. The curse of Brink’s-Mat lives on, and those involved in the robbery and subsequent laundering are advised to watch their backs.

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