We sure do love a good bank heist story. The tales of derring-do and high adventure often bring to mind the adventure books we read as kids (Famous Five, anyone?). Here are several heists that have captured our imaginations.
Let’s start with an overwhelmingly successful one. This heist at Northern Bank on December 2004 was like something out of a Hollywood blockbuster, featuring hostages, guns, infiltration, and bags and bags of cash. The perps got away with £26.5 million. Not only that, the case still remains unsolved…
In 2005, Brazil’s Banco Central was robbed of £38 million after thieves dug a 200m tunnel into the bank from a nearby building. This was the biggest heist in the country’s history and took three whole months to mastermind. Still, £38 million for three months work isn’t something we can sniff at!
In the 1970s and 80s, three Canadian criminals carried out around 100 bank robberies throughout the US, amassing over $15 million in the process. The fact that their heists rarely lasted more than 2 minutes and that their meticulous leader, Patrick Mitchell, wore a stopwatch around his neck earned them the nickname "the stopwatch gang".
The biggest, yet least publicised, bank robbery ever recorded occurred at Iraq’s Dar Es Salaam Bank. In 2007, three of the bank’s own security guards walked out of the institution with a staggering £146 million cash. The case has never been solved and the money has yet to be recovered.
At the dawn of the new millennium, cyber criminals perpetrated what was believed to be the first virtual bank heist. The robbers allegedly stole hundreds of thousands of pounds over several months by hacking into the system of internet bank Egg, only to be arrested a few months later, leaving the criminals with nothing more than a whole load of egg on their faces.
The 1950s Boston Brinks robbery shows that teamwork and fair play are vital in any group activity, even crime. The FBI struggled to identify the perpetrators of a theft of almost $3 million from one of the most highly guarded banks in North America, until one disgruntled gang member confessed because he felt he had not received his fair share of the spoils. Sounds like those crooks should have watched a bit more Sesame Street as kids…
When your own lawyer describes your bank heist as "one of the most ill-planned and ill-executed ever committed", you know you’ve messed up. This was ex-footballer Allan Mitchell's predicament after his 2006 robbery went wrong, culminating with him dropping £46,000 and being wrestled to the ground by a passing motorist as he tried to flee. Guess he dropped the ball on this one…
Bank robbery has never been as romanticised as it was in the case of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. Bonnie and Clyde met in January 1930 and committed a spree of violent bank robberies. Notorious for their lack of hesitancy in shooting anyone in their way, the couple were hunted for years before finally being killed on 23rd May 1934.
Apparently, accessing a bank safe is easy – it's the getting back out that’s the hard part, as Phillip Mills can attest! In December 2003, a judge dubbed Mills the “most inept” robber he’d ever seen after the hapless criminal was accidentally locked in the safe he was trying to rob by a bank employee unaware that a heist was taking place.
When Thomas Infante issued bank staff with a note demanding cash or else, he didn’t expect his choice of notepaper to be his downfall. In fact, the Illinois resident's demand was written on the back of his payslip, which he left at the scene, providing police with both the identity of the culprit and his address. Remember Tom, crime doesn’t pay!
In a move that truly epitomises the British spirit, one bank robber threatened staff at a Barclays branch and then waited patiently in the queue while they served other customers. Suffice it to say that Howell's politeness gave staff enough time to alert police, leading to his swift arrest.