So far in our series on Mega Heists we’ve looked at some of the most unbelievable heists ever undertaken, from high stakes diamond robberies to ingenious art thefts.
However, here in the latest instalment in our continuing series, we’re going take a closer look at one of the most brazen heists of all time, which took place a little closer to home.
The Great Train Robbery
In the early hours of the morning of the 8th August 1963, a group of robbers stole £2.6 million (£40 million in today’s money) from a Royal Mail train travelling from Glasgow to London. This raid has since become known as The Great Train Robbery – a name which you will likely recognise.
This heist, which is reminiscent of something out of a western, remains the biggest ever raid on a train in British history, and is the most famous robbery of its era.
The train had run for 125 years without interference, until that fateful night, when it was brought to a standstill by a red light near Ledburn in Buckinghamshire. But the signal had been tampered with by the robbers, who had changed the signal from green to red, in what was a simple yet effective ploy.
Shortly after the train ground to a halt, the conductor was overpowered and in less than 15 minutes the gang had removed 120 sacks filled with bank notes from the train, before transferring these into a waiting truck.
Foiled by Monopoly
The whole robbery was completed in less than 30 minutes and the robbers subsequently made their getaway, fleeing to their hideaway at Leatherslade farm in Buckinghamshire. They probably would have gotten away with the whole thing too, if they hadn’t decided to stop for a game of monopoly.
The gang had originally intended to lie low at the farmhouse for several weeks; however after being spooked by some low-flying RAF aircraft, which had nothing to do with the manhunt, they decided to split the money and leave the scene immediately.
The cleanup operation didn’t go as smoothly as planned, and they made a poor job of covering their tracks. Consequently, the police were able to find the fingerprints of everyone involved, including some on the Monopoly board.
One by one, the culprits were tracked down and arrested. Between them, the gang members were sentenced to a total of 307 years imprisonment.
The Great Train Robbery remains one of the most famous heists in history. There’s no denying it was brilliantly planned, and remarkable for its simplicity.
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