The Biggest Thefts – And How They Could Have Been Foiled

One of the biggest thefts in recent history is the Hatton Garden raid in 2015 – it is often described as the biggest burglary in English legal history. The theft was carried out by a gang of retired and elderly men, who devised a plan to enter the building and get to the safe deposit boxes where valuable jewellery was kept. CCTV showed the men arriving and unloading tools on April 2nd, when the area was experiencing issues around damaged electricity cables. With this distraction in place the gang drove to the building and unloaded tools, gaining access to the building via the roof and a lift shaft. Their plan was almost thwarted at this stage when they found they couldn’t access the vault, so they returned the next day with different equipment and were successful.

Some of the factors which led to this going undetected for two days were the fact that it was the Easter weekend and the businesses in the area were all closed for the long weekend; with less people around the gang could work unchallenged. The burglar alarm was triggered at one point, but was turned off without the gang being discovered. Perhaps if a thorough search of the building had been carried out at that point the heist could have been prevented, as the actual theft occurred two days after the alarm was triggered.

The presence of the gang at various times over the days of the crime should have meant the plot was discovered – this wasn’t a snatch, grab and run job but a carefully planned robbery. CCTV should have been more closely monitored to identify the repeated activity at the site by the same people, but this clue was also missed. At a different time of year when there were more people around this might not have been possible at all, but it just goes to show that complacency can help burglars work undetected.

The Great Train Robbery is another crime classic, in which almost £40m was stolen in today’s money. The heist took place on a Royal Mail train known to be transporting large amounts of cash and valuables, and again the planning was the key to pulling this robbery off. The team researched the movements of cash trains and investigated how signals worked in order to override the mechanism to force the train to stop in an isolated location. The layout of the train carriages meant that the valuables were isolated in one carriage which was inaccessible from the others. The raiders could get in and out quickly without being discovered, which they did.

Today that crime could not happen because train signals have been upgraded and no large amounts of cash are transported by mail – these large scale transactions are now done using computers rather than with physical cash or gold. When the robbery took place all that could have been done to prevent it was arming the train staff and improving the security of the carriages, however, an attack like this was not expected and therefore, these preventative measures were not taken.

You would have to be very rich and very unlucky to be the victim of such a crime nowadays, but it still pays to have home and business security as tight as possible, with an intruder alarm the most basic of measures to take. CCTV, inside and out, can act as a deterrent and gather evidence, while not keeping cash and valuable jewellery at home (or at least not displaying any outward signs that you have valuables like this) removes the temptation for thieves to target your home.