The Brinks Mat gold bullion robbery was one of the most notorious heists in British history. On November 26, 1983, a gang of robbers stole 6,800 gold bars, weighing a total of 3 tonnes, from the Brinks Mat warehouse at Heathrow Airport in London. The robbery has since become famous for the sheer audacity of the thieves and the sheer amount of gold that was stolen.
The Planning of the Robbery
The planning of the Brinks Mat robbery was a complex and sophisticated operation. The gang of robbers, led by Brian Robinson, spent months researching the Brinks Mat warehouse, studying its security procedures, and mapping out a plan of attack. They managed to obtain inside information about the warehouse, including details about the guards, the alarm systems, and the procedures for storing and transporting the gold.
The Robbery Itself
On the morning of November 26, 1983, the gang of robbers entered the Brinks Mat warehouse, armed with guns and dressed in police uniforms. They overpowered the guards, tied them up, and set fire to the warehouse to create a distraction. The robbers then loaded the gold bars into a van and drove away from the airport.
The Aftermath of the Robbery
In the aftermath of the robbery, the police launched a massive manhunt to find the robbers and recover the stolen gold. Brian Robinson was the first to be apprehended after the security guard, who was also his brother-in-law, Black, gave his name to the investigating officers. Robinson was taken into custody in December 1983. Ironically Black confessed to aiding the raiders, giving them a key and providing details of the security measures.
Yet, just two days after the robbery took place, a couple noticed a white-hot furnace operating in a neighbor’s garden hut near Bath, Somerset. Believing it to be connected to the robbery, they informed the police. However, the police claimed that the location was outside their jurisdiction and only passed the information on. The couple was never asked to provide a statement or give testimony in court, and no reason was given for the police’s lack of action.
After 14 months, the police raided the premises and arrested John Palmer, the occupier who was a local jeweler and bullion dealer. He was cleared of all charges after claiming he was unaware of the connection to the robbery.
Part of Micky McAvoy’s share was entrusted to associates Brian Perry and George Francis. Perry enlisted the help of expert Kenneth Noye to dispose of the gold. Noye melted down the bullion and mixed in copper coins to disguise the source, but the large amount of money moving through a Bristol bank caught the attention of the Bank of England, who informed the police.
Noye was placed under surveillance and in January 1985, he killed police officer DC John Fordham after discovering him in his garden. At the trial, Noye was found not guilty.
The Consequences of the Robbery
The Brinks Mat gold bullion robbery had far-reaching consequences, not just for the individuals involved in the robbery but for the entire British criminal underworld. The sheer amount of money that was stolen, combined with the audacity of the robbery, made it one of the most talked-about crimes in British history.
A significant portion of the three tons of stolen gold from the Brink’s-Mat robbery has not been recovered and the other four robbers were never found guilty. In 1996, it was believed that about half of the melted and recast gold found its way back into the legitimate market, including the reserves of Johnson Matthey. Some have claimed that gold jewelry purchased in the UK after 1983 may have originated from the stolen gold.
The Legacy of the Brinks Mat Robbery
Today, the Brinks Mat robbery remains one of the most infamous heists in British history. It has been the subject of countless books, films, and television shows, and is still remembered as one of the most daring and audacious crimes ever committed in the UK. Despite the passage of time, the legacy of the Brinks Mat robbery lives on, serving as a reminder of the cunning and determination of those who planned and carried out the crime.
The “Curse of Brink’s-Mat” or “Curse of the Brink’s-Mat millions” refers to the fatal shootings of several men believed to be involved in the robbery. The London criminal community believed these deaths were connected to the effort to clean the stolen gold.
The Brinks Mat gold bullion robbery was a crime that captured the imagination of the British public and the world. It remains one of the most infamous heists in British history, remembered for its sheer audacity, the amount of gold that was stolen, and the legacy that it left behind. Despite the passage of time, the legacy of the Brinks Mat robbery lives on, serving as a reminder of the cunning and determination of those who planned and carried out the crime.