2000      updated 2007/04/07

What would have been the world's biggest diamond robbery, if it had succeeded, took place at the Millennium Dome on 07th November, 2000. A gang arrived with a JCB, which they used to smash their way into the Dome through plastic security doors. They then attacked the display cabinets housing the £350million Millennium Diamond Collection with sledge hammers. One of their main targets was the 203-carat Millennium Star diamond. Once they had recovered the loot, the gang was planning to make their getaway across the Thames on a speedboat.
   Unfortunately for the thieves, the police knew they were coming and over 100 police officers, some of them armed, were waiting to ambush them. Worse, the police had arranged for the diamonds to be replaced with replicas.
   As soon as the news of the ambush was released, the public immediately assumed that the robbery had been allowed to go ahead as a publicity stunt for the ailing Dome, which was wished on the nation by Prime Minister Tony Blair and a small circle of cronies. The Dome failed to reach its targets for visitor numbers, the Blair government held a millennium change celebration in the Dome one year too soon and it was closed before the 3rd Millennium began.
   At their trial, the thieves tried to reduce their sentences by saying that a police officer had offered them inside information. The jury didn't believe them and the principals were sent down for 18 or 15 years in February 2002. They appealed, claiming that the judge had nodded off while the defence counsel had been summing up and his snoring had kept everyone awake. The appeal court ruled in January 2004 that while it was highly regrettable that Judge Michael Coombe, 71, had nodded off, it did not make convictions unsafe. Nevertheless, 3 of them gang received 3-year reductions in their sentences to 15, 15 and 12 years respectively.

2001

Purveyors of the Jewish & Christian religions are always eager for historical proof to support the largely mythical stories in the Bible. So when a 3,000-year-old stone tablet describing repairs to King Solomon's temple turned up in 2001, the Bible scholars went wild with excitement. There is no archaeological evidence that this temple ever existed and it is known only from Old Testament accounts.
   Months of tests showed that the tablet's surface patina contained charcoal flecks which were radio-carbon dated to 2,300 years ago. The stone was offered to the Israel Museum in Jerusalem for $8 million. But when the museum asked if it could carry out more tests, the stone and its agent dropped out of sight.
   The Israeli Antiquities Authority eventually tracked down the agent, and he turned out to be a private investigator working for Oded Golan, Israel's best known collector of antiquities. Only he said he wasn't the stone's owner; he had been acting for a Palestinian dealer, who had died.
   The following year, an ossuary gave the Bible scholars another thrill because the inscription on it said that it had contained the bones of James, the brother of Jesus (who is supposed to have been an only child, according to the Catholic Church). Alarm bells went off when the owner of the ossuary was found to be Mr. Golan. And when police raided him, they found the missing Temple Tablet as well as the ossuary.
   More experts examined the Temple Tablet and found a curious phrase in the text. In modern Hebrew, it read: "I made repairs to the temple." In ancient Hebrew, it had the opposite meaning: "I damaged the temple." Which made no sense in the context of King Jehoash bragging about repairing Solomon's temple. Worse, the stone had a natural patina on the back but the lettering on the front looked freshly cut, possibly by an electric tool, and the front patina was loose and artificial. Flecks of gold and Iron Age charcoal had been added by hand.
   Similarly, the James Ossuary was found to have a freshly cut inscription beneath an artificial patina. Both the tablet and the ossuary were declared forgeries in June 2003.
   Oded Golan was arrested and charged with forgery and fraud. His apartment was searched and found to contain a hidden workshop full of half-made artefacts. Museums and private collectors around the world had had a narrow escape. But the case left lingering doubts about the authenticity of other Bible artefacts. Golan was caught but other forgers might have been a lot more cunning in their dealings with scholars eager for proof that they are right and everyone else is wrong.

2002

A thief who smashed his way into a clock shop in Arundel, Sussex, left behind an interesting clue when he strolled off with 2 bronze figures – part of one of his fingers. The clue was put on ice at a local hospital and a police spokesman said, "If the offender wishes to contact us, we can discuss returning the piece of finger to him. Of course, we would expect him to bring the stolen items with him."

2003

In January 2000, Rawson Watson hit on the perfect plan for stealing cash being transported for Thomas Cook on a flight from Madrid to London. He hid himself, his tools and 2 flat-pack cardboard boxes in the foam lining of the aircraft's cargo hold. And when it was in the air, he assembled his cardboard boxes and set about the 6 red plastic boxes, each of which contained £200K in pesetas.
   At this point, working by torchlight, he realized that his plan was going haywire. He couldn't open the boxes, he found that he wouldn't be able to repair the seals on the boxes with the green nail varnish which he had brought along and he cut himself and started to bleed all over the boxes and the cargo hold.
   Revising his plan, he put one of the boxes of cash in one of his cardboard boxes and hid in the other. But when he arrived at Heathrow, the loaders dropped his box and he fell out. And when he ran away telling them not to worry about his he was all right, the loaders called the police.
   Watson got away from the airport but he was arrested for drink-driving in October 2002 and his DNA was matched to a blood sample recovered from the aircraft's hold. When his case reached the Old Bailey in June 2003, Watson denied the robbery attempt and assured the jury that he was back-packing in West Africa at the time. Unfortunately for him, the stamps for Togo in his passport turned out to be forgeries. So a month later, he was sent down for 3 years.

Hospital cleaner Sophie Matala tried to sue her employer for more than £2 million after she found a penis in goulash served in the hospital's canteen. The management at the Medforum hospital in Pretoria, South Africa, got away unscathed when the judge ruled that after a delay of over 3 years, she was making her claim too late.

Charles McKinley wanted to go home to Dallas but he couldn't afford the air fare from New York. So he sent himself by air freight in a wooden box measuring 3' 6" x 3' x 1'. The 5' 8" shipping clerk took neither food nor water on his 15 hour 'no frills' journey. He billed the cost of his flight, $350, to the warehouse in New York where he had been working. The Dallas police arrested him; but on charges unrelated to his flight. The District Attorney's office tried to think of a law that he had broken, but they managed to come up only with a violation of the law of stupidity.
   p.s. For the $350, which he charged to his firm, Mr. McKinley could have flown to Dallas first class.

German police picked up a musician after other drivers reported him for erratic steering on a motorway. The cops found that the man had been steering with his knees while playing the flute at 80 mph. He told them that he had been eager to perfect his performance and unwilling to waste the time spent travelling.

Kept hanging around to make up an identity parade, unemployed actor Alan Hunt investigated a nearby lunch box. He took one cheese sandwich for himself and shared the rest with others wating to stand in line with a suspect. His reward was eight hours in a cell then an appearance before Bournemouth magistrates, who gave him a 6-month conditional discharge and stuck him with a bill for £25 for costs.

2004

Six men in a van rammed their way through the shutters of a warehouse at Heathrow airport in a bid to steal £40million in gold bullion and £60million in banknotes. They were armed with a gun, knives, hockey sticks and clubs. But they suddenly found themselves surrounded by over 100 police officers, and the coppers had sub-machine guns and pump-action shotguns.
   The Flying Squad had been watching the gang for 2 months and they had observed a dry run one week before the robbery attempt. So instead of going down in history as rivals of the Great Train Robbers and the Brinks-Mat bullion robbers, the 7-strong gang went directly to gaol.

Armed robberies in art galleries are highly unusual and thieves doing it in daylight are even rarer. Which is why the staff of the Munch Museum in Oslo were amazed to see 2 armed men in balaclavas crashing into plate glass as they blundered through the system of automatic doors. The men just pulled a version of The Scream and The Madonna off the walls and left. By the time the police arrived, they were long gone, leaving behind a full account of their operation, including them dropping the pictures a couple of times, on various security cameras.
   An earlier version of the iconic picture The Scream was stolen from Norway's National Gallery 10 years ago and held for ransom. On that occasion, the thieves used a ladder, entered through an upper window and left behind a postcard with the message: 'Thanks for the poor security'. The painting was valued then at £48million and the thieves aimed to ransom it for a modest $1million. But a police sting operation left all 4 of them behind bars.

Colour photocopying technology has progressed to such an extent that Finnish fraudsters are passing off their copies as the work of Salvador Dali – mainly etchings, sketches and graphics from his later years. Mr. Dali died in 1989 leaving behind a huge number of works of art of all types. The crooks in Finland are asking up to €10,000 for their reproductions. The police became aware of the racket in 2002 but they have been 'too busy' to investigate it. Copies of etchings and drawings by Rembrandt, Chagall, Picasso and Andy Warhol have also been flogged off to gullible collectors.
   Some of the fakes are easy to spot as they are printed on modern paper stock. But problems arise when the crooks use contemporary paper. One way of working the racket is to buy a set of 10 official reproductions for about £1,000 and sell copies made with a high-quality photocopier, or a digital camera and a printer, at up to £12,000 apiece.

The latest bogus invoice scam is a letter sent to small businesses marked 'Final Notice' and demanding a fee of £75 per employee to training in the art of spotting money launderers. Recipients are warned that offences due to ignorance of the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002 and the Money Laundering Regulations 2003 can involve a fine and/or imprisonment for up to 14 years.
   The mailing also includes a form for reporting people suspected of money laundering. It is one which can be downloaded from the National Criminal Intelligence Service webside and it lends the mailing a spurious official air.
   A requirement to be aware of money laundering practices was extended in early 2004 to include estate agents, solicitors, accountants, sellers of high-value goods and casinos in addition to banks and other providers of financial services. But the crooks have been targetting every time of business from antiques dealers to builders and corner shops.
   Their scam is out of the same box as the racket involving demands for registration fees for phoney data protection schemes, and no doubt the crooks will come up with another variation when this one becomes well known.

Hampshire police recruited disgraced MP Neil Hamilton, his wife Christine and Channel 5 to concoct a fake TV game show. Then they sent out scores of invitations to people who had not paid fines or failed to answer court warrants. The targets were all promised the chance to be on telly and win big cash prizes. The sting led to the arrests of 17 criminals, 8 of whom had not paid fines. The rest were wanted for traffic offences, assault and offences involving criminal damage, drink driving, drugs and bail violations.

2005

A gang of 19 Kurdish asylum seekers was busted for importing around 100,000 illegal migrants into Britain and other European countries. Their customers were packed at up to 20 at a time in secret compartments in lorries. Each paid up to £8,000 for the service. The ones heading for Britain spent months travelling across Europe to the Channel ports. They disappeared into London's Turkish quarter or to market gardening centres to join gangs of pickers. The arrest operation was the climax of a 2-year operation involving police forces across Europe.

Following the theft of a version of The Scream in August 2004, the Much Museum in Oslo has decided to cash in on the robbery by marketing a board game. The Mystery of the Scream is aimed at the family market and it invites players to track down the thief before he reaches 'a criminal paradise'. The paintings stolen in this raid have still not been recovered.

A gang of 3 Romanians, 2 of them illegal migrants, in Leytonstone, East London, swindled ebay customers out of £300,000 by getting them to ignore the auction website's basic protocol for payment. Bidders for their postings were told that they had failed but, several days later, they were told that the highest bidder had dropped out and that they could have the item at a bargain price.
   Instead of using the PayPal system, which releases the payment only after the goods have been received by the buyer, the mug punters sent cash to the Western Union office in Leytonstone. The fraudsters then used forged passports to collect the money. The fraud was uncovered only when Western Union became suspicious about the identities of some of their customers.
   Nicolae Cretanu was gaoled for 3½ years at Middlesex Crown Court. His wife, Adriana, and their accomplice, George Titar, both got 2½ years.
   A week later, 7 crooks from Lytham St. Anne's were convicted of an ebay phishing scam, which had netted them at least £200,000. They sent out fake emails to ebay customers asking for account details and personal information, and used stolen identities stolen to con money out of other ebay traders.

Bank manager Graham Price stole £3.5 million from Halifax customers and £7 million from the bank itself. He blew it on internet gambling, buying shares in racehorses and buying racing tips. A Halifax auditor failed to spot what was going on in November 2003 but another auditor found an IOU for £7 million – signed by Price – in an empty safe in 2004. Price's eventual reward was a 12 gaol sentence.

Joseph Boil's scam involved sending out scratchcards and letters telling victims that they had won a luxury prize such as a sports car, a digital camera or a widescreen TV. He expected 2-3% of the victims to claim the prize on a premium rate phone line at £9 per call, £7 of which went to Boil. After listening for 6 minutes at £1.50 per minute, the callers learned that all they could get was a reconditioned computer. A prosecution by Bristol's trading standards officers resulted in 200 hours' community service for Boil. He was also fined £407,000 for breach of the ICSTIS code for telephone services.

Peter Francis-Macrae made £1.1 million by selling domain names and email addresses which he was not registered to sell, and then threatening to destroy the internet systems of customers who complained by mass-spamming. He also threatened to petrol-bomb Peterborough's trading standards office and the local police station. He was sent to gaol for 6 years after refusing to reveal where he had stashed hundreds of thousands of pounds.

2006

February • A gang following the abduction/robbery system used by the IRA to steal £26 million in banknotes from a bank in Ulster in December 2004 took £53 million from a Securitas collection centre in Kent at the end of February, 2006. The depot manager's wife and family were held prisoner and 15 staff were tied up at the centre while the gang loaded the vast amount of cash onto their van.

Armed men used Rio de Janiero's major carnival night as cover for a raid on the Chacara do Ceu museum. They strolled off by paintings by Salvador Dali, Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso, and a book by Picasso. The early Matisse and the Dali paintings also took a walk from this museum in 1989, but they were recovered within a couple of weeks. The price set on the haul was $30 million.

March • A major distraction during the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper in the late 1970s/early 1980s was a tape mocking the police, which was supposed to have come from the Ripper. The police also received three letters from the same person and the focus of the hunt swung from Yorkshire and Lancashire, where Peter Sutcliffe was killing women, to Wearside.
   27 years after these events, advances in DNA technology allowed a forensic laboratory to create a profile of the hoaxer based on saliva residue from an envelope, and he happened to be on the databank as a result of other offences. John Humble, 50, was sent down for 6 years apiece for the letters and 8 years for making the tape (concurrent sentences) on charges of perverting the course of justice.
   Humble sent the letters and tapes because he had a grudge against the police. His QC tried to paint a picture at his trial of a hopeless alcoholic who was a victim. Peter Sutcliffe has commented that he felt a lot safer when he heard the notorious tape broadcast with a police appeal for information on the identity of the owner of the distinctive Wearside accent.

April • A woman calling herself an artist brought western London to a standstill with one of her installations. She went round Hammersmith and Shepherd's Bush leaving packages; which prompted members of the public to phone the police. The areas around the packages were cordoned off for several hours before experts decided that the packages were harmless. The 'artist' was duly arrested and charged with causing a public nuisance.

June • An employee of the Australian national mint was sent to gaol for 3 years for stealing half a ton of two-dollar coins (worth A$130,000) over a ten month period. He took the cash from his place of work in a lunch box because 'he enjoyed a challenge'. He didn't actually spend the cash; he just hid it in his mother's garage; which means that he was well able to afford the fine of A$4,000 that went with his gaol sentence.

August • The Environment Agency has to give its officials body armour, batons and handcuffs when they go out to police fishing in Britain's river and lakes. British anglers return their catches to rivers and lakes, but predators from Eastern Europeans are taking fish for the table and they can turn extremely violent when confronted. Carp, perch, roach, bream & pike are all becoming endangered species as a result of the government's lack of an immigration policy and border controls.

The pilot of a microlight, who was giving a flying lesson, saw criminals rip down a security fence and make off with a neighbour's caravan. So the pilot phoned the owner and the police, and joined in the pursuit. But when the thieves were cornered, they insisted they'd bought the caravan and produced a dodgy bill of sale. The dozy coppers felt they could do nothing more than let them off with a caution. No charge of 'grand theft caravan', no criminal damage charge over the fence.

A bloke who was caught by a speed camera in Hyde (near Romiley) in August thought he had the ideal solution to avoiding a fine. He returned to the camera with some thermite and reduced it to smoking slag. Unfortunately for him, the camera's data was stored on a disk drive in the base of the camera's mounting, and it survived his assault. The last image taken by the camera was of the bloke's van and its registration number. Craig Moore was remanded on will be sentenced in September. Instead of a fine of £60, he faced up to 10 years in gaol.

Four 18-year-old Frenchmen were arrested for 'happy crashing' , rather than 'happy slapping' in Spain. On holiday in Benidorm, they decided to wind up motorists at roundabouts in the early hours of the morning after a night of energetic drinking. One of them lurched out into the road, causing motorists to swerve, while the others filmed the chaos that he caused with their phone cameras and posted it on the internet. Nobody was hurt before the 4 perps were busted.
   Another popular activity in Spain in the summer of 2006 was starting forest fires and filming the blaze.

PC Jason Lobo was suspended in September 2003, accused of over-claiming £90 on his travel expenses between Burnley police station and the Manchester HQ of the Immigration Service, to which he had been seconded. Two years later, he was cleared of 13 charges when his case came to court. Other people had had access to the swipe card, which PC Lobo had been using to record his mileage, and the prosecution offered no evidence.
   Lancashire Police spent the next year on a misconduct investigation. Eventually, PC Lobo admitted 6 episodes of misconduct – genuine mistakes not crimes. He was fined 7 days' pay and his suspension was lifted. By then, Lancashire Police had wasted £500,000 of taxpayers' cash.
   As a final sting in the tail, PC Lobo, who is black, decided that his reputation had been so damaged by the 3 years of dilatory investigation that his career was ruined and he was entitled to play the race card and sue for damages.

October • A Spanish woman living in Seville hit on a great way to extract shopping money from her husband, from whom she was separated – she kept having their son kidnapped by her gang. The husband paid out over one million euros but he became suspicious and hired a private detective when the son was snatched a 4th time. So the wife, the son and their 4 accomplices all ended up enjoying the hospitality of the Seville police.

Librarian Norman Buckley saw his job at the Central Library in Manchester as an opportunity to make lots of money on the side. He did it by sneaking rare books out of the library and flogging them on eBay. By the time a suspicious book dealer tipped off the police, he had stolen rare books and posters worth £400,000. But all he got was a suspended prison sentence and a spot of community service.

Seven Moslem groups brought a legal action for defamation against Jyllands-Posten, the Danish newspaper which published a dozen cartoons (only a couple of them moderately funny) about the prophet Mahommad in September 2005. Moslems around the world took the cartoons as an excuse to kill at least 50 people but the Danish court ruled that while the drawings might have offended some Moslems, they were not intended to belittle Moslems. So no cash compensation.

November • Ananias Mathe, a Mozambican who was locked up in South Africa's highest security gaol awaiting trial on 51 charges including murder, rape, armed robbery and car hijacking, escaped by covering his body with slippery petroleum jelly. He escaped from his handcuffs and shackles, removed the cell window of bulletproof glass and its frame, and squeezed his lubricated body through a gap just 8 inches wide.
   The South African authorities would like to know how he managed all with while guards, who were supposed to keep an eye on him, were patrolling on the metal grill above his cell. An inside job is suspected.
   UPDATE Mathe remained on the run for 2 weeks before being captured by a private security firm – to the annoyance of the inept South African police force. Mathe made the mistake of stealing a car fitted with a tracking device, and he ended up in a special cell.
   During attempts to catch him, the South African police shot a church minister, who they mistook for Mathe, and arrested then released another man.

Coastguards busted at sea, a home-made submarine, which was being used to try to smuggle 2.7 tonnes of cocaine into the United States. The crew of 4 were taking turns to breathe with the 3 snorkel tubes. Their 49-foot, fibreglass vessel was painted white and it could manage a respectable 7.5 mph. The US Coastguard described it as a big tube held together with DIY kit. Constant baling was needed to prevent it from sinking. The submarine is thought to have been built in Colombia to transport the drugs to Guatemala or Mexico for onward transport on lorries. It was launched from Costa Rica, and it travelled 100 miles before being intercepted by Costa Rican Coastguards, who were working with the US FBI and DEA.

2007

February • Two Londoners, who stole Moslem female robes from Regent's Park mosque in June 2006 and used them as disguises for a bank robbery in Kilburn, were gaoled for 4.25 and 3 years at Kingston crown court. Nicholas Bidar was arrested on the day of the robbery but made 2 violent escape attempts, which earned him the longer sentence. Anthony Roberts was arrested in October 2006.

Glenda Askew of Swansea hit on what seemed like the perfect way to dodge a speeding charge – she sent a letter, apparently from her daughter, to the Crown Prosecution Service saying that she had died in a car crash. But she didn't get away with it.

A Chinese man got a death sentence for stealing 3 billion yuan (£200M) with an ant-breeding scam. Wang Zhendong told his customers that they could make profits of 35-60% from medicines, wines and teas made with the ants. His company was able to sell packets of black ants worth 200 yuan (£13) for up to 10,000 yuan (£660) to over 10,000 people before the scam was exposed in 2005. 15 of the senior partners of Yingkou Donghua Trading received gaol sentences of 5-10 years and fines of 100,000-500,000 yuan.

March • Eastern European criminal gangs are taking over from Italian thieves on that nation's sleeper trains. Italians thieves traditionally work by stealth. The Eastern Europeans think nothing of assaulting and locking up the sleeper car's staff, robbing the passengers after drugging them with a narcotic spray, then escaping out in the countryside with other members of the gang after pulling the emergency lever to stop the train.

Beverley Charman, who received a record £48 million divorce settlement from her husband, the Lloyd's insurance broker John Charman, was relieved of jewellery claimed to be worth £300,000 by a masked gunman at her home in Sevenoaks, Kent. The police believe that press coverage 2 days earlier of their acrimonious battle in the high court attracted the thief's attention to a promising target.

According to current health and safety regulations, security guards delivering cash are not allowed to wear body armour, not allowed to carry batons, not allowed to have cash-boxes chained to themselves and not allowed to resist if someone robs them. As a result, gangs of kids, some as young as 14, are attacking them on the way home from school. Most of the young criminals are aged 17-22 and they were responsible for 301 cash-in-transit robberies in the London area between April and November of 2006. There were 138 robberies in the same period of 2005. Some of the criminals threaten the security guard with a gun or a knife but others know that they don't need to bother with a weapon – the cash is there for the taking.

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Sole RLC, 2007