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‘They got the lot’: the mystery of the biggest bank heist in Australia’s history | Crime – Australia

The bank constructing has been standing squarely on the nook of the primary avenue for 133 years. Quietly doing its enterprise as the generations strolled previous. Unassuming and stable with its thick brick partitions and flat roof. Its unassailable strongroom was as soon as thought-about the most safe place to stash the money of the area. But it surely was not, because it famously turned out, impregnable.

In the sweltering summer season of 1978 hippies nonetheless roamed the hills round the Tweed valley. What’s now suburban sprawl round the New South Wales northern rivers city of Murwillumbah was dairy farms and picket farm homes. There have been massive agricultural and farm provides shops; it was a subtropical, rural place of cows, cane and banana plantations. Nobody locked their doorways. Throughout city the plume of white steam rose from the sugar mill. In the shadow of the nice mass of the extinct volcano that’s Wollumbin Mount Warning, it was, says former mayor Max Boyd, “a quiet little nation city”.

Condong sugar cane mill, a landmark of the ‘quiet little nation city’ of Murwillumbah in northern New South Wales. {Photograph}: OZSHOTZ/Alamy

A spot of not a lot be aware besides to those that lived there – till the evening of 23 November 1978 when a significant crime was dedicated and Murwillumbah turned the shocked scene of the biggest bank heist in Australia’s history. It was audacious, meticulous, consummately skilled, old skool. It has gone down in history as the good crime in which nobody was bodily damage. In 43 years it has by no means been solved; an everlasting mystery that has achieved folklore standing in the small northern rivers city.

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The Transecurity armoured truck which did a run of the banks between the Queensland border and Sydney was a well-known sight in Murwillumbah, typically stopping the visitors as armed guards unloaded it into the in a single day holding bank. Each second Wednesday there can be an enormous payroll from the federal authorities on board to satisfy pension cheques and wages.

Someday on the Wednesday evening of the 23 November the locks at the again door of the bank have been picked; there was no alarm. Utilizing an electro-magnetic diamond-tipped drill which clamped on to the protected and allowed them to drill 18cm holes inside 5mm of the essential level in the locking mechanism they then fed by means of a medical cystoscope with wires to control the tumblers in the protected’s locking mechanism. A fraction of a millimetre both means they usually couldn’t have pulled it off.

They left no clues, no mess, no hint. But it surely was some time earlier than anybody knew this. As a result of, ingeniously, they jammed the protected, eradicating the two mixture lock dials and the protected handles earlier than slamming the door shut.

Ample time for a clear getaway.

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Westpac Bank building, Murwillumbah, Northern New South Wales, AustraliaThe Westpac bank, then the Bank of New South Wales, is 100 metres from the police station. {Photograph}: Geoff Marshall/Alamy

Even as of late the primary avenue of Murwillumbah is sort of abandoned by 10pm on a weeknight, however Allan Mitchell was in the Imperial lodge on that evening in 1978.

“We have been actually trying straight at the bank from the Imperial entrance bar and I walked throughout to my automobile which was parked proper in entrance of the bank and didn’t see or hear something in any respect. I’m a boilermaker by commerce so I do know what was required to do what they did and to do it so stealthily was unbelievable.”

The police station 100 metres away, within reach of the bank, was staffed all evening.

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The late Mervyn Gordon was engaged on the telecommunication system in the put up workplace on the different nook that evening. Says his widow Edna, “he didn’t hear or see a factor. Nobody heard or noticed something.”

At 7.30 the subsequent morning an MSS safety guard seen the again door of the bank was open. Native locksmiths and 4 Chubb protected specialists flown by constitution from Brisbane labored on the protected door for greater than 5 hours earlier than admitting defeat. Lastly, Tweed Shire council workmen blasted their means in through the exterior wall of the bank and the thick strengthened concrete wall of the strongroom, utilizing jackhammers, chisels, oxyacetylene chopping tools and sledgehammers.

Exterior, ready in the warmth, a journalist described the suspense as “electrifying”. It was 4.30pm earlier than the gap was sufficiently big for NSW police Ch Insp Frank Charleton to place his head in, go searching and utter the immortal phrases, “they got the lot”. The haul was $1.7m, which right this moment can be about $10m. The cash was untraceable. And by then, in keeping with a profession legal now taking credit score for the heist, the robbers and the cash have been already again in Sydney and having a nap.

Police inside the bank after the robbery in 1978‘I by no means noticed so many police in my life’: the investigation into the 1978 bank theft begins. {Photograph}: Bruce Devine

Instantly the amazed city of Murwillumbah was overrun with police. “I by no means noticed so many police in my life,” mentioned native store proprietor Peter Moore, “they have been crawling over the rooftop of the bank and the avenue. We didn’t know there was that a lot cash in the bank in such a bit city. It’s the biggest factor to occur in the city since the flood of 1954.”

The information was flashed round the world. Peter and his father, Herb, weren’t gradual to capitalise on the city’s sudden infamy. They quickly had a profitable facet hustle promoting “Got the Lot” T-shirts, tea towels, caps and beer glasses from their menswear retailer in the primary avenue.

Gordon Smith, a contract cleaner, got here in at midnight to wash up the mess made by the council workmen. “It was a sizzling, sizzling evening. There was only a full mess in the bank. We eliminated rather a lot of rubble and bricks. And so they made the mistake of turning the followers on and there’s simply all the mud in every single place, it was hazy. We have been there for seven hours.”

Whereas the police turned the close by Gold Coast “the other way up” searching for clues, checking motels and motels for suspicious company, in Murwillumbah there was wild hypothesis. Had the criminals been amongst them casing the joint? Might they’ve been sitting on a bar stool beside them in the Imperial lodge? There needed to have been an insider who knew that quantity of Reserve Bank cash was coming in to be held in a single day on that individual evening. The robbers had recognized the structure of the bank. Who instructed them?

Twenty-5 detectives from three states have been introduced in to fail to catch the criminals. All leads ran dry. Nobody claimed the $250,000 reward. The cash and the robbers vanished. However, in keeping with experiences at the time, it had the Magnetic Drill Gang written throughout it: that they had used the similar methodology 14 instances in the earlier 19 months.

For many years the finger has been firmly pointed at Graham “The Munster” Kinniburgh, a one-time grasp protected-cracker and the brains behind the gang. The Munster was shot lifeless in his driveway in December 2003, a sufferer of the Melbourne gangland killings.

However now a infamous profession legal has come ahead to say The Munster had nothing to do with it. Bertie Kidd is taking the credit score.

Robert Bertram “Bertie” Kidd is 88 and has Parkinson’s illness. He has spent 27 years in jail and has been described by police as a “nasty, vicious, and violent legal”. Final 12 months he launched two volumes of his memoirs with the writer Simon Griffin, and he has made plans for a 3rd to be launched after his dying.

“I’ve learn deceptive accounts of my profession for many years,” he writes.

In his memoirs he takes credit score for the notorious Positive Cotton horse racing scandal, and claims to have smuggled himself inside the baggage maintain of a Sydney-Melbourne flight to steal $2m from a drug cartel mid-flight.

He additionally claims he masterminded the Murwillumbah bank theft.

It was by no means about Murwillumbah or the bank, Kidd says, it was about the armoured truck and the cash in it. Kidd and his cohorts had been following it up and down the coast for months understanding “the place to hit it alongside the route”. The rationale Murwillumbah got here into the body was pragmatic. In spite of everything the “detailed” reconnaissance he determined the best choice was to rob the bank as a substitute of the armoured van.

“My rationale was that hitting the van may very well be messy and replied with weapons. Somebody may find yourself getting killed and we may get charged with armed theft or homicide. If we hit the bank there can be much less danger of anybody getting damage and at worse [sic] we’d face break and enter.”

Bert Kidd, the infamous gangster/criminal from the 1960s.‘We watched in the jail frequent room with delight. It was a unbelievable end result,’ says Bertie Kidd, who claims he’s the mastermind behind the unsolved bank heist. {Photograph}: Christopher Hopkins/The Guardian

Kidd is adamant that his “exceptionally dependable” informant about the profitable job on the evening of the 23 November was not a Murwillumbah cop, safety guard or bank worker. “I really feel sorry for many who have been accused, in a small city the suspicion would have been tough to endure.”

Kidd was going to do the job himself – “a quantity of individuals have been concerned and rather a lot of work had been accomplished to set it up” – however he had been unexpectedly detained in jail after a botched job on the Maroubra Bay lodge.

However he already had a staff arrange. They deliberate it with precision for 3 months earlier than the heist went down, he says. In jail on the evening of the theft Kidd went time and again it in his head. They adopted the armoured truck on the final leg of its journey to make sure they wouldn’t be opening an empty vault. After the job was accomplished, the staff went for a “gentle dinner in lovely Byron Bay”.

The rationale nobody noticed or heard something in Murwillumbah was as a result of they arrived near the early hours. It was a pitch black evening. A lookout stood exterior; there was nobody round. Kidd had insisted they needed to jam the vault door earlier than they left. But when they couldn’t try this they have been to lie low for 3 or 4 days at a shack he had on the Gold Coast.

There may be nothing from Kidd’s account of the theft and its aftermath that was not in the public area at the time. “The entire thing,” he writes, was broadcast dwell on all channels. “We watched in the jail frequent room with delight. It was a unbelievable end result.”

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He claims the haul was much more than the $1.7m that was reported. It was nicely over $2m.

And the robbers, he says, won’t ever be caught. “That’s as a result of they’re virtually all now lifeless after residing wealthy lives on the proceeds of this job.”

He says he’s the just one left standing and that the cash was distributed to households who had somebody in jail.

The police are formally nonetheless investigating this crime; the file remains to be open. Detective chief inspector Brendon Cullen says he’s is doubtful about Kidd’s claims “however having mentioned that, if he has got info related to that inquiry I’d be completely happy to speak to him”.

If Bertie Kidd – notorious gangster and standover man – is to be believed, the nice mystery of Australia’s biggest bank heist has been confessed and solved. The mythology isn’t any extra.

In accordance with Bertie, they got the lot, they usually got away with it. Nonetheless the good crime.

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