Movies about heists are something that I’ve always been infatuated with. The intellect, dramatic moments and predictable success make this genre irresistible to me. The fact that the victims are often portrayed as villians also places a nice cherry on top.
Thankfully cold blooded theives only exist on the big screen, right? Actually many heists have been pulled off that you would think were tales of fiction written by a Hollywood studio. By doing a bit of snooping I was able to find eight heart thumping heists that actually happened.
1. Banksy hangs his own paintings in museums
Though this story is somewhat a series of reverse heists, it definitely belongs on the list.
In early 2005 the world famous graffiti artist ‘Banksy’ pulled off one of his more infamous capers. The English street artist inconspicuously placed several of his own paintings amongst the displays at several prestigious New York museums.
The artist, who goes by the name Banksy, has surreptitiously hung works in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the American Museum of Natural History and the Brooklyn Museum.NPR.ORG
Later when Bansky was asked about his decision to pull of the daring action he answered the question in typical Bansky fashion.
I thought some of [the paintings] were quite good. That’s why I thought, you know, put them in a gallery. Otherwise, they would just sit at home and no one would see them.”NPR.ORG
Banksy later stated that he studied Harry Houdini’s techniques for accessing the art galleries undetected.
2. The great train robbery
On August 8, 1963 an English Royal Mail train was travelling from Glasgow to London. When the train reached the now infamous bridge in Mentmore it was forced to stop due to a malfunctioning signal.
The crew was unaware at the time that a plan masterminded by Bruce Reynolds was unfolding. A group of 15 bandits quickly overwhelmed the 73 crew members aboard the trian. After smashing the conductor in the head with a metal bar their demands were met.
The thieves made off with over £2.6 million the equivalent of almost £60 million today. Most of the group was later apprehended and were tried in 1964. To this day, none of the money has been recovered.
On 15 April 1964 the proceedings ended with the judge describing the robbery as “a crime of sordid violence inspired by vast greed” and passing sentences of 30 years’ imprisonment on seven of the robbers.WIKIPEDIA
3. Swedish crown jewels stolen, thieves escape by motorboat
This one is something straight out of a James Bond script. In 2018 the Swedish Crown Jewels were stolen from the Strängnäs Cathedral in Sweden. The pair of crowns and golden orb are worth an estimated £6.1 million.
Two thieves strategically anchored a small boat in a waterway below the church. After smashing the glass enclosure and grabbing the trio of irreplaceable items they made a daring escape by speedboat. Though the pair initally escaped they were later aprehended and the jewels were recovered. Johan Backstrom,22 was later sentenced to over four years in prison for his role in the crime.
4. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist
On March 18, 1990 two men posing as police officers entered the Gardner museum in Boston and told security guards they were responding to a call. The pair quickly subdued the guards and over the next 60 minutes stole 13 works of art.
The 13 works have a combined value of $500 million. Nobody has ever been arrested in connection to the crime. The FBI is offering a $10 million reward to this day for information that cracks the case.
5. The Pink Panthers
A group of over 200 theives and masterminds believed to be of Serbian descent dub themselves the Pink Panthers.
“Almost all of them are intelligent,” said the prosecuting lawyer, Gilbert Lafaye, at their sentencing. “But with this intelligence why do they follow the path to easy money?”NEW YORK TIMES
In December of 2008, four members of the group dressed in drag swarmed the Harry Winston Boutique in Paris. The group held the stores 15 employees at gunpoint and forced them to bag jewelry from the stores displays and safe. In all the crew made off with over $108 million worth of high end designer jewels.
6. The neck collar bomb bank robbing
This heist is actually a peculiar tale that’s on the list for it’s bazaar and tragic outcome. On August 8, 2003 Brain Wells walked into a PNC bank in Erie Pennsylvania. Wells quickly handed a note to the teller which said:
Gather employees with access codes to the vault and work fast to fill bag with $250,000. You only have 15 minutes.
Wells then raised his shirt to reveal a device attached to a collar around his neck. Tellers believed the device was a bomb. Wells was only able to bag $8,702 before fleeing the scene.
State troopers caught up with Wells a few miles down the road at a gas station. Where he pleaded with officers stating that the device had been forcibly placed around his neck and he was not a willing participant. After a tense 23 minute standoff the bomb exploded killing Wells.
Today investigators believe that Majorie Diehl-Armstrong masterminded the heist. Evidence also points to her ex-lover, handyman Bill Rothstein as the man that built the intricate bomb. It’s possible Wells himself was involved in the plot but many questions remain unanswered.
7. Feltham Book Heist
In January of 2017 a trio of thieves managed to escape with over 260 rare books from a wharehouse near the Heathrow Airport in London. The books were passing through the facility enroute to the California International Antiquarian Book Fair. Authorities say the three smashed through a skylite window on the roof and in ‘Mission Impossible’ like fashion propelled over 40 feet to the loot.
The books were a mix of 15th and 16th century literature including works from Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci and Sir Isaac Newton. The estimated combined value of the works is over $2.3 million dollars.
In June of 2019 investigators arrested 15 men in connection with the daring caper and believe they are part of a network of thieves:
“known for committing a large number of burglaries throughout Europe.”
8. Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist
This next heist is the kind of sticky situation that could only take place in, well Cananda.
Between 2011 and 2012 an estimated 3,000 tons of maple syrup was stolen from a storage facility in Quebec. The value of the syrup was a sweet $18 million Canadian dollars. The syrup was stolen by a group of insiders that knew the thousands of barrels of syrup would only be inspected once per year. The crew was able to avoid detection by taking the barrels to a nearby facility and replacing the syrup with water. Then sneaking the barrels back into the storage facility.
In 2012 a group of seventeen men were arrested and charged for the crime. The heist was also featured on the Netflix documentary series ‘Dirty Money.’
So there you have it eight unbelievable heists that you would think were movie plots. If you enjoyed this article check out another- Can you buy government cheese?