Draftsman of the £26million Brink’s-Mat bullion robbery dies in a nursing home

Shortly after 6.40am on November 26, 1983, six armed men in balaclavas – including one wearing a Trilby – entered a warehouse at Heathrow airport. 

The property belonged to security company Brink’s Mat and the robbers were there because they knew there was £3million in cash in the vault. They knew because their inside man, security guard Anthony Black, had told them. He even opened the door of the warehouse to let them in.

Led by Black’s brother-in-law, Brian Robinson, and Trilby-clad Michael ‘Micky’ McAvoy, the gang tied up the guards and poured petrol over them, threatening to light it if they didn’t comply.

Thanks to Black, they were able to identify the two most senior guards who, between them, held the keys and combination numbers for the vault where three safes were located.

Inside was more than three tonnes of gold bullion. Packed into more than 70 cardboard boxes were almost 7,000 gold bars. Someone had to fetch the van.

Weighed down by a heap of gold, the van idled its way out of Heathrow after one of the robbers wished the security guards a merry Christmas.  

It didn’t take the police long to connect Black to the raid and he soon implicated Robinson and McAvoy (who punched Black when he went to identify him in a police line-up).

Shortly after 6.40am on November 26, 1983, six armed men in balaclavas – including one wearing a Trilby – entered a warehouse at Heathrow airport

The pair hadn’t exactly laid low after the robbery, spending cash on property in Kent. It was rumoured McAvoy had bought two rottweilers to protect his new home and named them Brinks and Mat.

The two were later sentenced to 25 years in prison. Black was sentenced to six years. Stealing the gold had been relatively easy. The bigger challenge was selling it.

The robbers turned to crime boss Kenneth Noye, who, along with another criminal, Brian Reader, handled the gold. It was regularly taken to a smelting company near Bristol where it was mixed with copper and brass to look like scrap gold.

About £13millon-worth was disposed of in this way. The movement of cash through a local bank soon aroused the suspicion of the Bank of England and surveillance operations of known villains began.

Noye appeared in court in 1986 after police found 11 gold bars worth £100,000 on his premises. He was found guilty of handling the Brink’s Mat gold and was sentenced to 14 years in prison. 

He is currently serving time in prison for the 1996 roadrage killing of 21-year-old Stephen Cameron on the M25 in Kent. 

Only two of the gang that entered the warehouse were ever convicted of the crime but there were greater repercussions.

It is estimated that more than 20 people with some kind of connection to the robbery have been killed, as Britain’s criminal underworld turned on itself. 

Meanwhile Reader, Noye’s former right-hand man, was the ringleader behind the £14million Hatton Garden jewellery raid. He was sentenced to six years and three months in jail last month.

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