On November 26, 1983 at about 6:40 am, six masked men broke into the Brink’s-Mat facility near Heathrow Airport in London. Their objective was to steal the £26 million in gold bullion, diamonds, and cash that was stored there. They succeeded. It was described as “the crime of the century”.
The gang gained entry to the warehouse with the help of security guard Anthony Black, who was in on the robbery. Once inside, they tied up and poured gasoline over the staff and threatened to light them on fire if they did not reveal the combination numbers of the vault. Once the vault was opened, the perps were surprised at how large and heavy the gold was. It weighed almost 3 tons. They had to get a forklift to bring the gold out to their waiting van. The perps made their getaway as one of the guards freed themselves and sounded the alarm. But the perps were gone. It was the largest robbery in British history.
Their plan started to unravel when security guard Anthony Black was identified as being involved. He gave up his brother-in-law Brian Robinson as one of the robbers. Police were also able to identify Michael McAvoy. Both were arrested, tried, and convicted of the crime. Although both sentenced to 25 years in jail, they never gave up any of the other perps. The four others remained unidentified to this day.
The robbers had turned to crime boss Kenneth Noye, to handle the gold. It was regularly taken to a smelting company near Bristol where it was mixed with copper and brass to look like scrap gold. Noye was identified and arrested after police found 11 gold bars worth £100,000 at his residence. He was found guilty of handling the Brink’s Mat gold and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. Most of the gold was never recovered.
It is estimated that more than 20 people with some kind of connection to the robbery have been killed, as Britain’s criminal underworld turned on itself over the lucrative heist.