Real Heist Stories: The Brink’s-Mat Burglary

A Golden or Gone-Wrong Robbery?

Very few robberies make history to the point of being included in popular culture and almost “forcing” people to learn about them unless they want to miss several details in their country or international facts. 

Though, even when we said “very few,” the truth is there are more heists that we would like to mention when it comes to burglaries, and focusing on them will take lots of time unless we give them their respective spaces one by one. 

In this case, we will talk about the Brink’s-Mat Burglary, one of the most famous robberies in history and worldwide. 

Having occurred in London, the burglary’s investigation comes with lots of background and history we can discuss. 

In case you are just like us, people eager to learn more about those mysteries and investigations, we are happy to announce that our goal is to provide as many details as possible here. 

A Crime Shaped in Bars of Gold

This heist will take us back to the 70s when gold (although it continues to be) was the main currency of savings in banks and several vaults the institutions managed in London. 

You must know that it isn’t a simple case of stealing lots of cash. Instead, the criminals took the time to go over their capabilities at the time, and the police were quite behind most of the time. 

That being said, we can start with the tale of the largest ever gold heist in British History, which is a cautionary tale about the fragility of the notion of honor among thieves, especially when the prize was worth an astonishing PS26 million. 

This big heist took place with six armed robbers from South London, led by Mickey McAvoy and Brian Robinson. 

They planned to enter the Brinks Mat warehouse at Heathrow Airport and hope to steal approximately PS3 million worth of cash. 

Anthony Black, a Brinks mat security guard, was there to help. He was also a brother-in-law to Brian Robinson, which linked him to the plan once Brian asked him. 

With their plans on the table, the gang decided to enter the warehouse at 6:30 am on November 26, 1983.

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The six armed men were able to enter the warehouse with the assistance of Anthony Black by giving them quick access, thanks to his work as a security guard. 

Once all of them were inside, they pointed their guns at the remaining guards to overpower them and ask for the combination of the safe to take the money they were looking for. 

The guards accepted after being threatened to be set alight once the gang poured petrol all over them. However, even with the combination, several arrays of electronic security systems were still left to be dealt with. 

In this, Black contributed with his knowledge until they were able to open the safe. However, we have been talking about cash so far, but they didn’t know that the cash they expected was, in fact, piles of gold bars. 

With a total of 6,800 bars and divided into 76 cases along with the cut and uncut diamond, the gang had to work out the way to take all the goods or, at least, a part of them. 

The initial transport they had planned wasn’t going to work out, and authorities believed a part of the members had to seek fr a better, sturdier transport without being easily detected. 

The Aftermath: What We Know Happened to the Crew

After the gang was able to escape with all the money in gold bullion, diamonds, and some cash, the police were soon alerted and searched for the criminals. 

With so much money and goods in specific transport despite the police not knowing in specific which one, would you think it is easy to escape? Not at all, if you ask us. 

However, the robbers were able to avoid the police for two days from when the arrests and aftermath started to be present. 

But where did the discovery for clues start in real life? Was it sound after the robbery?

A couple noticed a white-hot, glowing crucible in their garden hut near Bath, Somerset, two days after the robbery. In case you don’t know, a crucible is something similar to a container made of metal or ceramic that is used to melt substances or metal to very high temperatures. 

Well, considering that the gold bars are what the criminals stole, you can expect the connection to this. 

Therefore, the couple immediately reported it to police, suspecting that it was connected to the bullion robbery. 

Police arrived at the scene and were shown the hut. However, they stated that it was not within their jurisdiction and would forward the information to the local police. 

They never requested the couple to make a statement or to testify in court either.

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Due to the aptitude of the police and how poorly they reacted to any proof or connection to the robbery, especially this one, the actions are considered to be “stupid” and negligent since the crime could have been solved, partially with the connection to this crucible. 

The furnace was discovered after the premises were searched 14 months later. The occupier John Palmer, a local jeweler and bullion dealer, was arrested. 

Palmer claimed that he didn’t know the robbery involved the gold and was released from all charges.

But was there someone arrested like, ever?

Brian Robinson was captured after the security guard, Black, who was involved in the crime, passed the name to investigating officers at the time and, fortunately, was arrested in December 1983.

However, how was Black able to give such information? After all, he was free at the time and wasn’t related to the crimes at all. 

Well, 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.

Another one of the robbers, Micky McAvoy, had given part of his share to Brian Perry and George Francis. 

Perry hired Kenneth Noye, who was an expert in his field, to dispose of the gold. Noye took the bullion down and made it into coins for sale. 

They didn’t expect that the Bank of England was alerted by the sudden movement of large sums of money through a Bristol Bank.

Noye was put under surveillance by police as a result.

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McAvoy was tried at the Old Bailey in December 1984, while Black was sentenced for armed robbery.

Noye was convicted of conspiring to handle the Brink’s Mat gold in 1986. He was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment and fined PS500,000 plus PS200,000 costs while also being sentenced to seven years in prison for conspiracy to handle the Brink’s-Mat gold. 

George Francis was later killed, and McAvoy was suspected of being a suspect.

McAvoy tried to get a deal from the court in which he would give back his share of money in return for a lower sentence, but the money was long gone by this point. 

As a result, McAvoy was ordered by the High Court to pay PS27,488,299, making him responsible for the entire amount stolen.

But what happened to Noye? In 1996, he murdered motorist Stephen Cameron during a road rage incident and was arrested in Spain and sent to prison for Cameron’s murder.

Recovering the Lost Money: Where’s the Gold?

As you might have noticed, not all the people involved in the crime were arrested, and to this date, most of them remain in freedom since the police were unable to find any clues. 

But what happened to the money? All the gold and richness stole by the burglars. Well, it is quite simple. 

The three tonnes of gold stolen from the bank have not been recovered, or at least, most of it or a large part.

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Meanwhile, the four other robbers involved in the crime have never been found and, of course, neither convicted for the burglary.

Going back to the gold, a bit less than half of it was found in 1996 after it was melted and recast.

The owner of the gold wasn’t convicted considering that he didn’t know it was part of the Brink’s-Mat robbery, and he proved himself innocent, showing evidence about how he obtained it. 

However, with the amount of gold involved in the crime, authorities believe that nowadays, the jewelry made of gold in the UK is a result of the robbery, considering how it was stolen and sold to probably other businessmen. 

Finally, there isn’t much information about the criminals involved, like their background or who they were before the crime, except for the details of their family connections and how Black, the security guard, was involved not more than being the brother-in-law of one of the burglars. 

4 Facts About the Brink’s-Mat Burglary

  • PS26 million or £26 million is about $36 million, and the value of the gold stolen back to the date has increased over the years. 
  • The “stupidity” of the police during the case is what people consider the main reason for most of the burglars to be free all this time. 
  • There is a curse called “Curse of Brink’s-Mat,” which refers to all the early deaths of some of those who were involved (allegedly). 
  • In 1992, a television film called “Fool’s Gold” was aired and based on the robbery with Sean Bean as McAvoy.

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Written by Dame Cash

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