To celebrate Big Heist night and the premier of Reservoir Dogs on AMC, we look back on five almost perfect real-life heists.
No matter how painstakingly prepared and practiced it may be, every heist is eventually going to get you in trouble with the law – as these incredible real-life examples prove.
The Stopwatch Gang
Canada’s most notorious bank robbers, The Stopwatch Gang, inspired the movie Point Break, have penned a couple of books and are looking forward to an upcoming Hollywood biopic. There infamy is well deserved as Paddy Mitchell, Lionel Wright and Stephen Reid hit around 100 banks in the USA and Canada, collecting $15 million.
The trio was famous of planning each job down to the finest detail, never firing their guns and timing themselves with a stopwatch to ensure they were in and out within two minutes.
Where it went wrong: On what was supposed to be a retirement job in 1980, the three men hijacked a money pickup at a San Diego bank, stealing almost $300,000. Things didn’t go to plan from the start, as the truck was late and they ended up waiting inside for 20 minutes, rather than their traditional two.
After a successful getaway they disposed of the evidence in a dumpster but a homeless man found the bank bags and took them to police in the hope of a financial reward. The fingerprints they got finally led them to the Stopwatch Gang.
The Chelambra Bank Robbery
Tunneling into a bank has often been tried, but finding a quiet place to dig can be tricky – this gang found the perfect target however. The North Malabar Gramin Bank in Kerala, India was located directly above an old restaurant available for lease.
They rented the space and pretended they were doing renovations for a grand opening on January 8th 2008. On December 30, they cut through the floor of the bank and made off with around $1.3 million.
Where it went wrong: One of the ways the gang tried to confuse the cops was to make phone calls from and to various cities around the country. However, they were using a secret number, which was flagged up when investigators sifted through over 2 million calls made in the area. They tracked them to a hideout and arrested all four – recovering 80% of the money.
The Brink’s Robbery – SPOILER ALERT – Big Stickup At Brink’s (1978)
Security company Brinks has been the victim of many a heist but the most famous, which took place in 1950 in Boston, was labeled the ‘crime of the century.’ Joseph McGinnis, Joseph O’Keefe, Anthony Pino and Stanley Gusciora led an 11-man team that planned and practiced the con for almost two years.
After six aborted attempts they finally hatched their plan, which involved using keys copied during an earlier break in. They got away with almost $3 million, shared some of it out, but agreed not to touch most of it for six years – when the statute of limitations would expire.
Where it went wrong: Six months after the successful heist O’Keefe was arrested for burglary. Although he refused to talk about the Brink’s robbery he spent his entire share on legal costs and became desperate. On bail, and in need of money, he kidnapped a member of the gang and demanded a ransom. Pino paid up, but later hired a hitman to kill O’Keefe. The attack wounded him but ultimately failed and, when the FBI approached O’Keefe in hospital, he was more than happy to cut a deal.
The Loughton Incinerator Theft
Targeting money that was due to be destroyed, four employees of the Bank of England’s incinerator plant stole more than £600,000 between 1988 and 1992. Christine Gibson smuggled the notes out of the plant by stuffing them into her underwear, while three other employees distracted guards and acted as look-outs.
What went wrong: The gang and their spouses lived the high life for a couple of years before Gibson’s husband raised eyebrows by walking into his local branch to deposit £100,000 in cash. They were all arrested but only one, Kevin Winwright, who confessed was prosecuted. With no witnesses willing to speak to the police the other three couples were ordered to pay over half a million to the bank, but escaped jail.
The Great Trust Bank Robbery
Two South African painters pulled off a job so smoothly in 1971 police were convinced that it had been an inside job or the work of seasoned professionals. Derek Whitehead and Willem Antonie van der Merwe targeted a poorly guarded security van outside the Trust Bank in Johannesburg and planned to copy the keys and steal it.
They forced it to break down by pouring water in the fuel tank and stole the keys and while it sat in the garage. Then, one morning while the drivers were inside the bank, they strolled up the van with the duplicates and drove off with R240,000 – the biggest in the South Africa’s history at the time.
Where it went wrong: In need of a getaway driver Derek went to his wife Jeanette. She was reluctant to join the heist at first but was eventually convinced. As the team went to transfer the money into a rented car a few blocks from the bank, Jeanette’s distinctive fawn Mercedes following the van caught the eye of an alert employee at a nearby warehouse and raised suspicions. The descriptions he gave to police eventually led them to the robbers.
Big Heist Night Saturday 28 of March on AMC
- Big Stickup At Brink’s
- The Killing
- Reservoir Dogs