The seven greatest real-life robberies of all time


March 28: 

Here are the most sensational real-life heists ever.

Hatton Garden jewellery robbery


In March 2016 seven men with a combined age of 443 years were sentenced at the Old Bailey for breaking into a Hatton Garden security deposit vault in one of the most audacious heists in living memory.

Masterminded by Brian Reader, 76, with other career thieves who had previously been implicated in decades of London heists, the robbers used an elevator shaft to get close to the underground strong room, then drilled through half a metre of concrete into the vault.

The value of the stolen stones has been estimated at as much as £200 million, and although the “Old Blaggers” were caught and imprisoned, almost none of their haul has ever been recovered.

Boston Museum heist


Apparently responding to a disturbance call, two men disguised as policemen were admitted to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

Quickly overcoming the guards, they spent an hour ransacking the museum before making off with 13 works of art with an estimated value of half a billion dollars – the most valuable theft of private property ever. Among the pieces were a Rembrandt, several Degas drawings and one of the 34 known Vermeers in the world.

Nobody was ever arrested, and not one of the pieces has ever been recovered. The frames of the stolen artworks still hang empty in the museum.

Crown Jewels robbery


In 1671, Anglo-Irish adventurer Colonel Thomas Blood ingratiated himself with the Master of the Jewel House in the Tower of London, disguised as a parson, with a prostitute posing as his wife.

After several visits, Blood convinced the Master to let him and three accomplices into the jewel vault, then clubbed and bound him, sawed the royal sceptre in half and flattened St Edward’s Crown with a mallet, while one of them hid the Royal Orb in his breeches.

In a somewhat chaotic escape, the sceptre was dropped, one guard was shot and Colonel Blood was apprehended, the crown falling from his cloak. Brought before Charles II in chains, the King, rather surprisingly, pardoned the old rogue – and even awarded him some land in Ireland.

Russian hackers


Between 2014-2016, a ring of Russian computer hackers stole an estimated £650 million from banks all over the world.

Using malware and phishing to hack banks’ systems, they studied the operations and routines of the banks, even watching through webcams and CCTV systems, then transferred money through fake accounts. They even programmed ATMs to dispense cash at specific times.

Never taking more than £80 million from a single target, the gang robbed as many as 100 banks in 30 countries and remain at large to this day.

The Pink Panthers


Responsible for a string of the most audacious heists ever, the Pink Panthers gang surpassed themselves when four men dressed as women stormed Harry Winston’s exclusive jewellery store in Paris. After herding customers and staff into a corner, they smashed display cases and escaped with an estimated £85 million in diamonds.

Four years later, in 2013, a sole robber in a baseball cap, with a scarf over his face, walked into an exhibition of the Leviev diamond house in the Carlton Hotel in Cannes and made off with possibly the greatest single jewellery theft of all time, estimated at £110 million. The Pink Panthers were again suspected as being behind the robbery.

Wilcox Train Robbery


The robbery of the Union Pacific train by Butch Cassidy’s “Hole in the Wall Gang” was probably the most iconic heist of the Old West. Two “signalmen” stopped the train in the middle of Wyoming, the gang then dynamited the railcar holding the strong box, dynamited the tracks to stop any pursuit, then dynamited the strong box itself.

The gang escaped on horseback with about $50,000 (£40,000), equivalent to $7 million (£5.6 million) today, using fresh horses along their escape route to outrun any pursuit.Banknotes with the distinctive mark of one burnt-off corner would turn up for years afterwards as far afield as New York and New Mexico.

Saddam Hussein


The largest single bank heist of all time was committed the day before the Coalition invaded Iraq in 2003, when Saddam Hussein sent his son, Qusay, to the Central Bank of Iraq with a handwritten note to withdraw all the cash in the bank. Qusay then removed about $1 billion (£810 million) in $100 dollar notes in strongboxes, requiring three lorries to carry it all.

Approximately $650 million (£525 million) was found later by US troops hidden in the walls of one of Saddam’s palaces. Although both of Saddam’s sons were killed, and Saddam was captured and executed, more than one third of the money was never recovered. AGENCIES