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Top 10 Heists in British History

VO: Richard Bush
They say crime doesn’t pay, but some might disagree. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Heists in British History. For this list we take a look at some of the biggest and most spectacular heists and robberies to ever take place in Britain.

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Top 10 Heists in British History

They say crime doesn’t pay, but some might disagree. Welcome to WatchMojo UK, and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 Heists in British History.

For this list we take a look at some of the biggest and most spectacular heists and robberies to ever take place in Britain.

#10: Baker Street Robbery (1971)

“Let's see how Sherlock Holmes solves this one.” That was the message left by the robbers on the wall of the Baker Street branch of Lloyds after they took off with about £3 million in cash and stolen loot. Not the biggest of robberies, but it became famous after it was alleged a D-Notice had been issued by authorities requesting that media not report on the heist for reasons of national security. It’s been suggested that some of the security boxes contained compromising material on the royal family. A plot worthy of Mr. Holmes indeed.

#9: Bank of America Robbery (1976)

This one happened in ’76, in Mayfair, London. At the time believed to be the world's biggest robbery, it was made possible by an electrician at the bank who had turned accomplice to the gang. He hid in the roof space above the door and spied on officials as they opened the vault after the criminals’ first attempts to drill through the lock failed. They made off with £8 million, but many gang members were later arrested. Still, only £500,000 was ultimately recovered and the alleged mastermind seemingly got away.

#8: Knightsbridge Safe Deposit Robbery (1987)

Pretending they wanted to open a deposit box, a small gang led by Italian criminal Valerio Viccei got into the vault of the Knightsbridge Safe Deposit Centre in London and subdued its staff. It was 1987, and they made off with about £40 million, a staggering sum at the time. Viccei immediately fled the country, but later made a major mistake: he came back to Britain to ship his Ferrari Testarossa to South America, at which point he was stopped by police and finally brought to justice.

#7: Theft of the Crown Jewels (1671)

Thomas Blood’s 1671 attempt to steal the Crown Jewels has become a famous episode in the history of the Tower of London. The rogue befriended the Master of the Jewel House, Talbot Edwards, while visiting with an accomplice pretending to be his wife. Days later he came back with even more members of his “family”, convinced Edwards to show them the jewels, subdued him and tried to make off with the loot. His cunning plan was ultimately a failure, but, a testament to his charms, he convinced King Charles II to not only spare his life but also give him land!

#6: Graff Diamonds Robbery (2009)

Between their multiple London locations, this was the fourth time in the space of six years that the iconic London jewellers were robbed. After they were targeted in 2003 by a Serbian gang that managed to take £23 million worth of jewellery, you’d think Graff deserved some respite. But they were robbed again in 2005 and 2007. Then, in 2009 Aman Kassaye and Craig Calderwood walked into the store wearing business suits and professional disguises, produced handguns and walked out with £40 million worth of loot. They even took a hostage before fleeing the scene, but were later recognised and caught. Unfortunately, none of the jewels were recovered.

#5: Brink’s-Mat Robbery (1983)

Called “the heist of the century”, the Brink’s-Mat robbery took place in November 1983 at the Heathrow International Trading Estate. It was a carefully planned break-in, in which the gang, aided by a security guard, entered the warehouse and subdued the staff before dousing them in petrol and threatening to set them on fire if they did not reveal the vault’s combination. They expected to find roughly £3 million in cash: instead, they found 6,000 gold bars, diamonds and cash worth £26 million. They made off with everything, and though some gang members were later apprehended, much of the gold was never recovered

#4: Securitas Depot Robbery (2006)

This 2006 heist in Tonbridge, Kent, was one of the biggest cash robberies in British history and, for those involved, one of the scariest. The horror began the night before the robbery, when a group of men posing as police officers kidnapped the Securitas depot manager. At the same time, another group held his wife and child hostage. The following morning, they were taken to the depot, where the criminals managed to tie up another 14 members of staff before emptying the vault of £53 million in cash.

#3: Northern Bank Robbery (2004)

This 2004 Belfast robbery has been blamed on the Provisional IRA, but the group has always denied its involvement and the undisputed truth is still yet to reveal itself – as the case remains unsolved to this day. Whoever was responsible sent men dressed as police officers to the homes of two Northern Bank staff members, where they ruthlessly held their families hostage. The employees were told to go to work as normal the next day, as unwilling accomplices to the plot. The two bank officials then stayed late after closing, when they let the gang in, who made off with £26.5 million.

#2: Hatton Garden Jewellery Heist (2015)

Known as “the largest burglary in English legal history”, this one made all kinds of headlines during 2015. Recalling a similar crime, the Security Express robbery of 1983, the Hatton Garden heist took place over the Easter bank holiday. A gang of old-aged criminals, many tied to other historical heists, broke into the building through a lift shaft and drilled through a thick concrete wall to reach their goal. They managed to leave no forensic trace and made off with an unconfirmed sum, estimated to be somewhere between 14 and 200 million pounds worth of loot.

#1: Great Train Robbery (1963)

As probably the most famous (or infamous) robbery in British history, the Great Train Robbery was a huge case at the time and is now part of popular culture, immortalised in films and TV series. In 1963, a well-organised gang of armed robbers stopped the Royal Mail train from Glasgow to London with a fake stop sign, then hit the driver on the head and stole £2.6 million. That’s about £50 million in modern money. Most of the robbers were ultimately brought to justice and much of the cash was recovered, but for the audacity of their deed, the instigators have since become legends.

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