Sunday, June 23, 2013

Update : British Police digging for Brink's-Mat gold

Detectives searching for loot from the £26 million Brink's-Mat bullion robbery were today continuing to scour a site on the south coast. Officers are using hi-tech imaging equipment to search a timber yard to the rear of a builders' merchants in Graystone Lane, off Old London Road, Hastings.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "This search is based on information we have received following a lengthy inquiry which has lasted many months. The robbery of gold bullion and jewels worth £26 million from the Brink's-Mat vaults at London's Heathrow Airport at 6.30am on November 26, 1983, was Britain's biggest. A bribed security guard let six armed men into the warehouse and within an hour had they pulled off "the heist of the century".
More than 20 people whose lives were touched by the bullion from an infamous British robbery have met an untimely – and often gruesome – end since the record-breaking raid.

Just after dawn on November 26, 1983, six armed men burst into the Brink’s-Mat warehouse at Heathrow expecting to find £3 million in cash. Instead they stumbled across nearly seven thousand gold ingots, worth nearly £28 million.

The heist turned them into some of Britain’s richest men and filled the pockets of countless other crooks as the gold was melted down and the money laundered to fund shady activities such as drug smuggling. Just three out of 15 men involved in planning and executing the robbery were ever convicted – robbers “Mad” Mickey McAvoy, Brian “The Colonel” Robinson and security guard insider Tony Black, Robinson’s brother in law.
The vast majority of the gold – worth over £500 million at today’s prices – has never been recovered. But nearly 30 years on, most of those involved have come to a violent end. More than 20 people connected to the heist are dead.

The include an ex-policeman who ended up with an axe in his head, an underworld figure gunned down on his yacht off Corfu, and an enforcer now believed to be part of the foundations of the O2 Arena in London.
Robinson, McAvoy, Brian Perry and three other men managed to disable the security alarm and enter the warehouse thanks to “insider” Black, who worked at the depot. Once inside, they doused the guards with petrol and threatened to set them alight unless they revealed the combinations to the vault, which they knew contained £3 million.

But when they got inside, they could hardly believe their eyes. Stacked in front of them were 6,800 gold ingots, hundreds of thousands of pounds, travellers’ cheques and two boxes of diamonds. The men spent the next two hours loading their battered blue Transit van before making their getaway. The stolen vehicle creaked under the weight. By the time the alarm was raised 15 minutes later, the robbers and the loot had vanished.
In December 1984, Robinson and McAvoy were jailed for 25 years each while Black was sentenced to six years. But there were still many villains at large and an extraordinary amount of gold – and in the coming years death and betrayal were linked to the infamous robbery. The first death occurred in 1985, when Kenneth Noye, recruited for his links to the smelting trade, stabbed an undercover detective John Fordham in his garden.

At the resulting trial, the jury found Noye not guilty of murder on the grounds of self-defence. He was on trial again in 1986 after police found 11 bars of gold at his home. He got a 14-year sentence.
The curse has hit many in the criminal underworld including Great Train Robber Charlie Wilson, who was gunned down at his Marbella home after £3 million of Brink’s-Mat money went missing in a drug deal.
"ONE of Britain’s most notorious gangsters was shot dead in his Rolls-Royce by a contract killer yesterday. George Francis, an architect of the £26 million Brink’s-Mat gold bullion robbery, was found with bullets through his head and heart.

Detectives were last night trying to discover if the villain was killed for ripping off one of the Brink’s-Mat robbers for their £5million share of the massive hoard. Francis, 63, was suspected of hiding three tons of the gold stolen from a Heathrow warehouse almost 20 years ago."
In 1996, Keith Hedley, a suspected money launderer, was shot dead by three men on his yacht off Corfu. Two years later, Hatton Garden jeweller Solly Nahome, who had helped move hundreds of gold bars, was also shot dead outside his home. Perry, who was jailed for handling gold, died after being shot three times in the head in South London at the age of 63 following his release in 2001.

And the same year, Brink’s-Mat gang member George Francis, 63, was gunned down at point-blank range in his car outside the courier business he ran in South East London. Three decades on, the hunt for the missing gold continues. And with a new generation of gangsters looking for it, police believe the death toll will rise.

Most of the bullion is believed to be buried, with only a few old lags knowing the whereabouts