One of Britain’s most infamous robberies occurred in 1971 on Baker Street in London. The heist was so widely talked about that, just as the more recent Hatton Garden Heist was turned into a film titled The Bank Job.
But why did this robbery become one of the most talked-about, or in some cases, least talked about jobs in British criminal history?
In 1971 a gang of professional, experienced criminals carried out a semi-successful bank raid, which has been talked about for decades.
The gang managed to tunnel into a vault containing hundreds of safe deposit boxes. Of course, this raid was not orchestrated without adequate planning and the gang, in preparation, posed as potential customers one day to scope out the vault.
Now they just had to figure out a way in. To do this, they rented a leather goods shop, Le Sac, located just two doors down from the Baker Street Bank. To get into the bank, undetected, they tunnelled their way below the surface, going under the intervening Chicken Inn Restaurant. Tunnelling isn’t precisely the quietest of methods, so they resolved only to do this during weekends.
Initially, they tried to access the vault using a thermal lance. However, when this failed, they resulted in using explosives.
Upon leaving, the robbers left a cheeky message on the wall that read, ‘Let’s see how Sherlock Holmes solves this one.
A ham radio operator named Robert Rowlands lived in a block of flats on Wimpole Street, not too far from where the robbery occurred. Before bed, around 11:15 pm, he was messing around with the dials on his receiver when he overheard them. He could hear conversations between the robbers inside the bank and their rooftop lookout.
How They Could Have Been Caught
Rowlands contacted the local police. However, they did not take his tip-off seriously and suggested he record the conversations as the robbery progressed. Ultimately, these recordings didn’t have sufficient evidence to determine which bank was being robbed.
After failing to succeed with his local police department, Rowlands contacted Scotland Yard at around 1 am. They immediately sent officers to his flat. By 2 am, a senior officer had instructed radio detector vans to track the gangs’ exact location.
Police checked all of the 750 banks within 10 miles of Rowlands’ receiver. However, even upon checking the Baker Street Bank, the police failed to realise they were in there as the security doors had not been tampered with.
Success(ish) For The Robbers
Due to the police failings, the robbers could get away with what was reported at the time as £1.5 million in cash and valuables. However, it is now believed that figure was closer to £3 million, and today £3 million would be equal to around £14 million.
Although the robbers were not caught red-handed inside the vault as they could have been, not all of them escaped the law. In January 1973, 4 men were arrested and sentenced. Three of these men received 12-year sentences. 2 of these men appealed this and had their sentence reduced to 8 years, while the other received eight years. Not all of the gang were caught, and only £250,000 of goods was recovered.
Times have, of course, moved on from the 1970s and security at safe deposit centres is much tougher to pass through. The Safe Deposit Centre in Manchester is the only centre in the North West to house a Grade 10 Vault. Our security systems are regularly maintained and improved upon to ensure the centre has the highest levels of security available.
Our safe deposit boxes start from as little as £50 on a 3-month contract and come with the choice of electronic or key locking systems and a range of sizes.