Gold’s allure has captured many people across different cultures and classes of society. Everyone wants a bit of it, some would even go to the extent of getting the gold they covet through illegal means. Over the last century, men have carried some brazen and daring gold heists. If they aren’t stealing the unrefined gold from the mines, then they were breaking into bank vaults to steal the gold stashed by banks as well as expensive jewellery stored in what should be secure safety deposit boxes.
Heists involving large sums of money and the world’s most precious minerals and metals make attention-grabbing headlines. Some of these heists are so incredible they have inspired movies. There is always some incredulity hidden behind the headlines. Did the crime pay off, did the criminals ride off to the sunset with enough loot to sustain them for years? Here are some of the two most notorious gold heists in history.
On the evening of the 28th April 1995, a gang of robbers stole 25 bars of gold weighing over 285 kg. from Australian tycoon Kerry Packer’s. The thieves also made off with a glass jar filled with gold nuggets and a silver necklace. The entire stash of gold was worth a staggering $35 million!
There was ample security installed to alert law enforcement of what was going on. The thieves gained easy access onto the property, and broke the 1940 Chubb safe without breaking a sweat. The police struggled to find the culprits. They had left no traces of themselves. The one fingerprint found in the safe lead to a dead end. It was suspected that one of the robbers was the lover of Packer’s former Secretary but he turned out not only to be a master safe-cracker but also of counter-surveillance. There was no direct evidence linking him or anyone else to the robbery. That gold was never recovered.
There have been plenty of gold heists before that one and more still in years to come. One of the more famous early robberies of Australian gold took place on in May 15, 1855 where 91 Kgs of gold were stolen from a South Eastern Railway Company train transporting Spielman, Abell and Co. and Bult gold bullion from London to Paris.
The gold was transported in three secured boxes. The gold was estimated to be worth £12,000 (£2.3 million at current gold price). The security was tight. To open the boxes, two keys were needed but these were kept by two separate trusted railway employees. The gold travelled from London Bridge to Folkestone under armed guard. They would be offloaded at Folkstone and placed onto a steamship headed for France. It was only when the boxes reached their intended recipient that the discovery of a robbery was made the gold in the boxes had been replaced with lead shots. The boxes were not damaged and the boxes were opened with keys however, none of the two known keys were reported stolen. And because the thieves had been careful to replace the gold they had taken out with heavy lead, no one noticed that there had been a robbery. Out of the hundred initial suspects that were interviewed and investigated, four suspects were eventually identified as the main culprits. The story is that Edward Agar, an experienced forgerer met with ticket printer, William Pierce to discuss stealing gold transported between London and Paris. They recruited James Burgess, a train guard and the Margate ticket master, Williams Tester. Only £2,000 of gold was recovered the rest was melted and sold with the help of a crooked barrister, James Townsend Saward.