Gold has been the most coveted precious metal through out history. People would do just about anything to get their hands on gold even if it means stealing it from someone else. There have been robberies where a significant amount of gold was stolen by different kinds of people, rich or poor, young and old. The yellow gold has been held in high esteem firstly because of the value it has. Fiat currency cannot stand up to gold. Kingdoms sanctioned voyages to discover gold, pirates plundered and pillaged for gold and with the evolution of man, a couple of decades later gold is still as important and as coveted as it ever was. Pirates and monarchy’s hoarding gold and criminals are always plotting to steal some. The ingenuity that goes into some of these crimes is outstanding.
The Great Gold Robbery
The most famous gold robbery in the world is probably the Abell and Co. Spielmann, and Built robbery that took place on the 15th of May 1855. 91 kg of gold that came from the three companies were stolen whilst on route between London Bridge and Boulogne France. There were three boxes, each with god estimated at £12,000. The gold was under heavy security. The boxes were checked before being sealed and then secured with iron bars. The boxes could only be opened with two keys that were kept apart. According to the British Transport Police, the safe keys were given to railway staff in London and Folkestone and to the captain of the steamer carrying the safes. The boxes were weighed before being sealed and afterwards. They were then put into the Lord Warden Steamship at Folkstone.
The boxes were reweighed in Boulogne, France and it was found that the Abell box weighed 40 pounds less, the Built box slightly more and the Speilmann box weighed considerably more. However the combined weight was the same as the original. The robbery could only have taken place between London and Boulogne but the train had not made any stops between those two destinations.
When the Built box arrived in Paris on the 16th May and opened, it was discovered that sixteen bags of lead shot hat be substituted for the gold and only thirteen gold ingots remained.
Abell’s box was opened by the bank Pockar, Dufonf and Co. All the gold that has been placed inside had been entirely replaced by lead shots.
There was no damage on any of the boxes. They were opened with the only keys that were meant to open them. The British Police launched an investigation of what happened during the trip from London to Boulogne. Out of the hundred suspects interviewed, four were charged: Edward Agar, William Pierce, James Burgess and Williams Tester. Edward Agar was believed to have been the mastermind behind the robbery. He had met Pierce, who was an experienced forgerer to forge the train tickets. James Burgess was the inside security man who served as a train guard whilst Williams Tester was Station Master at Margate.
The criminals found a way to make wax impressions of the keys for duplicates to be made. They stocked up on lead shots and hit bags of it at London Bridge station in custom-made carpet and leather bags. They ensured that the weight of the lead would be the equivalent of £12,000 worth of gold. On the night of the robbery Agar and Pierce purchased first-class tickets for a trip from London to Folkestone. On entering the train, they handed their luggage (bags filled with lead) over to Burgess, who was then a porter and he stored them in his van.
Agar slipped into Burgess’ van whilst Pierce stayed in the carriage. Agar began working on opening the first box using the duplicate keys and used a mallet to simply knock the iron bars. When the train arrived at Redhill, he had emptied the first box and Tester took possession of the gold whilst Agar put the lead shot in the first box.
Between Redhill and Folkestone, Agar had been joined by Pierce in Burgess’ van to assist with the other boxes. The two then got off the train at Folkestone together with the carpet and leather bags they had come with initially. Burgess remained in the train carrying his duties as a porter.
For three days, they melted the gold in a make-shift furnace built at Agar’s West London house. Agar was helped by a barrister by the name of James Townsend Saward, a crooked criminal barrister who helped him sell the gold off.
There were other robberies ranging from the elaborate and sophisticate well thought-out escapades to the ridiculous heists that belong in comic books like the Kanowna Belle mine heist. The criminal masterminds behind Kanowna Belle simply stole a sewerage truck and filled it up withe gold-bearing concentrate. The value of the gold is not known. Now stealing concentrate is different from stealing ingots. Ingots would have gone through some sort of process to remove impurities. Concentrate on the other hand is just gold ore that has just been mined and still needs to go through some purification process. If it is high grade ore then chances are, there will be a reasonably large amount of gold, but the thieves would have to know more about the purification or smelting of gold ore to get what they are really after. Kalgoorlie has its own Gold Stealing Detection Unit who took on the task of investigating where the sewerage truck went, who was behind the operation and what they were going to do with all that gold. The fact that such a unit exists means, gold theft Kalgoorlie is a real issue that requires people with a set of special skills to deal with. People will go to incredible lengths to get their hands on the precious yellow metal.