“In a daring heist made for the movies, an armed gang stole some 6,800 gold bars worth £26 million from London’s Heathrow Airport, the largest haul ever staged in Britain, on this day in 1983.
The gang of six South London robbers planned the Brink’s MAT raid with inside help and meticulous care. Trade Development Bank, a subsidiary of American Express, was sending a shipment of gold to the Far East. It would only sit in the Brink’s MAT warehouse, about one mile outside London’s Heathrow Airport, for one night. Early the next day, at about 6:40 Saturday morning, six armed men wearing security uniforms and balaclavas burst into the warehouse. They beat up, handcuffed and poured petrol over the security guards, who they threatened to set alight unless they surrendered the alarm codes. After successfully disabling a dizzying array of sophisticated electronic security systems, the robbers entered the safes.
According to some reports, they were expecting to make off with £3 million in cash. What they saw astonished them. Some 6,800 gleaming gold bars worth £26 million sat packed up in 76 cardboard boxes. And beside them were two boxes of cut and uncut diamonds worth £100,000. The robbers used the warehouse’s own forklifts to transport the 76 boxes of gold into a waiting van, in which they sped off shortly after.
The Brink’s MAT robbery is one of the greatest unsolved heists in history. The gold was never fully recovered and many of the robbers never caught. It is believed the robbers immediately set about melting down the gold bullion to destroy its distinguishing marks and recast it in unrecognisable forms for sale, distribution, and transport out of the country. Two of the men, Micky McAvoy and Brian Robinson, were caught and sentenced to 25 years in jail for the heist. Another, Anthony White, was cleared due to a lack of evidence, but later jailed for taking part in a drug smuggling ring. Kenneth Noye was sentenced to 14 years in jail for helping melt down the gold bars. Nonetheless, that’s a fraction of the 15 people police think were involved in the planning and execution of the robbery.
As for the gold, it was never recovered, though shortly after the robbery foreign bank accounts in Luxembourg, Switzerland, the Cayman Islands, and the Bahamas are said to have experienced fresh infusions of funds. Others, however, think the stolen gold may be just under Britons’ noses. According to legend, anyone who purchased gold in the UK after 1983 probably has a piece of the Brinks-MAT haul around their neck. ”