Tag Archives: Reportage

Anatomy of a Robbery: Brink’s-Mat,26/11/83

Pitch black
Icy cold ,
Icy black
pitch cold ;
Heathrow Trading Estate
a corpse in a big grey shroud ,
outside Unit 7
the blue transit van
lowers at the morning.

“Mad” Mickey McAvoy ,
the 2 Brians,Robinson & Perry
and 3 others are
cooped up coiled springs
waiting to erupt;
waiting for their “inside man”
who told ’em which guards had
to-day’s combination numbers for the safe.

Waiting waiting waiting ,
for that useless Tony
to show up for his shift ;
late..pale..unkempt..
apprehensive Tony Black
makes it into work ;

Then there’s this
bloke in a yellow balaclava ,
how odd ,
pointing what turns out to be
a Browning automatic
in their faces ,
odder still.

One of the guards ,
Pete Bentley assumes is playing a prank,
so carries on mashing the tea ,
till he got coshed with the gun;
cuffed and bound at the shins
with heavy duty tape ,
cloth bags with string pulled
down over their heads ,
all the guards snagged.

The 2 guards with the numbers are I-deed ,
one of ’em taps in his half of the combination ,
– but the numbers got changed –
so he has his trousers pulled down ,
petrol poured on his lap ,
a match is struck and
a bullet’s promised for his head ,
after 20 minutes the other guard
gets the codes right .

It’s 7 a.m.
the vault opens ,
full of shoebox size drab grey containers
each one containing 12 bars of gold;
There’s 6,800 gold bars altogether
weighing in all three and a half tons
with a value of £ 26,369,778.

All 6,800 bars are passed hand to hand
hand to hand to hand again from
Unit 7 into the creeping daylight
and their battered transit ;
eyewitnesses later reported
seeing an old van ,its engine wheezing ,
riding very low on its suspension
through the streets of Hounslow.

Historical footnote:

The Brink’s-MAT robbery occurred early on 26 November 1983 when six robbers broke into the Brink’s-MAT warehouse at Heathrow Airport, London. At the time, it was described as “the crime of the century”.

The gang gained entry to the warehouse from security guard Anthony Black. The robbers thought they were going to steal £3 million in cash. However, when they arrived, they found three tonnes of gold bullion and stole £26 million (£75 million in today’s money) worth of gold, diamonds and cash. Once inside, they poured petrol over staff and threatened them with a lit match if they did not reveal the combination numbers of the vault.

Two days after the robbery, a couple saw a white-hot crucible operating in a garden hut at a neighbour’s property near Bath. Suspecting it may be linked to the bullion robbery, they immediately informed police. The police arrived, and were shown the hut, but they said it was just beyond their area and said they would pass the information on to the police responsible for that area. The couple were never asked to give a statement to police nor give evidence in court. No explanation has been given for the police failure to follow up immediately on the tip-off. Only 14 months later were the premises raided, the smelter found, and occupier Brian Palmer, a local jeweller and bullion dealer, arrested. In court, Palmer said he was unaware the gold was linked to the robbery and was cleared of all charges. For this incident, Palmer acquired the soubriquet of “Goldfinger”.

One of the robbers, Brian Robinson, was caught after security guard insider Black, his brother-in-law, passed his name to investigating officers. He was arrested in December 1983.

Scotland Yard quickly discovered the family connection and Black confessed to aiding and abetting the raiders, providing them with a key to the main door, and giving them details of security measures. Tried at the Old Bailey in December 1984, Micky McAvoy was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment for armed robbery, Black was sentenced to six years.