10 Unforgettably Epic Heists from History

by Rishika Jain2 years ago
Picture 10 Unforgettably Epic Heists from History

We always have that strange adoration for the robbers. We idolize them even though they steal our money and do not share a penny with us. As the era changed so did the method of robbers. Nowadays, these heists are no less dramatic than the heists we see in movies. They use modern technologies and techniques that are challenging to our imagination. Let’s uncover from the old to the modern era astonishing stories behind the epic heists in history.

1 A 2003 jewelry heist, the Antwerp Diamond Heist, was dubbed as the “Heist of the Century.” More than $100 million worth of gems were stolen. The mastermind behind the heist was caught after some trash from the heist revealed his identity. However, most of the stolen diamonds remained unrecovered.

Antwerp Heist
The Antwerp World Diamond Centre Vault Security System (Image to the left). Image credit: Joe McKendry/wired.com via thenaturalsapphire.com

The Antwerp Diamond Heist dubbed the “Heist of the Century,” happened in 2003. A gang looted jewels worth anywhere from $100 million to over $400 million from the biggest diamond district in the world, Belgium’s diamond district set in the middle of Antwerp.

The roots of this heist stretch back to 2000 when the mastermind behind this jewelry heist, Leonardo Notarbartolo, rented the largest office building in the Diamond Centre. He used his authorized trading license as a jeweler as his cover and secretly started planning for the heist. He noted every detail of the building’s security and gathered a team of skilled thieves.

Heist of the Century
The heist of the Century. Image credit: MarVista Entertainment

The burglary took place on February 16, 2003. The gang broke in through the 10-layered state-of-the-art security with the help of basic materials like hairspray, a broomstick, and electrical tape.

They gathered up the million-dollar gems and split up to escape back to Italy. The only mistake they made was that they didn’t burn the trash from their heist, which also included receipts and jewelry bags.

They dumped the trash in the forest, which was found by a local hunter, and he reported to the authorities. There was a receipt for a sandwich amongst the trash which was purchased by Notarbartolo from a grocery store near the crime scene.

The cops tracked down Notarbartolo and arrested him. However, even after the arrest, the stolen diamonds have never been recovered. (Source)


2 The theft of the Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci is regarded as the most sensational art theft in the history. In 1911, it was stolen from the Louvre by an ex-employee. However, the Mona Lisa didn’t have the fame or recognition earlier which it had after being stolen, and today its worth is $860 million.

Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa (Image to the left), Leonardo self-portrait. Image credit: Shutterstock

The theft of the Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci is one of the most controversial thefts in history. The Mona Lisa might not have been considered Vinci’s most iconic artwork except for the crime of only one man, Vincenzo Peruggia.

Today, it is one of the most well-known artworks of all time. On August 21, 1911, Peruggia walked into the Louvre arousing no suspicion because he was an ex-employee in the museum. He waited for an opportunity and quietly went towards the painting, lifted the wooden panel off the wall, tucked it under his cloak, and walked out. 

Peruggia was caught with the painting two years later when he tried to sell it to a dealer in Florence, Italy. Ironically, the Mona Lisa at that time was the least-known and least-impressive artwork of Leonardo, but the appreciation of the painting changed after it was stolen.

Today, the worth of the Mona Lisa painting is at least $860 million and has the highest insurance value of any painting in the world. (1, 2)


3 The Great Train Robbery of England happened in 1963 when a huge gang targeted the Royal Mail train heading from Glasgow to London. The gangsters stopped the train by tampering with the signals and escaped with money worth over $70 million today. Many members of the gang were caught later, but the police only recovered about £375,000.

Royal Mail Heist
Image is used for representational purposes only. Image credit: James Hime/Shutterstock

Train robberies might have been off rails since the 19th century, but a gang of dauntless British robbers revived the concept in the late 20th century, and the Great Train Robbery of England is proof of that. In 1963, a gang of 15 armed men robbed the Royal Mail train heading from Glasgow to London. They got away with money worth £2,600,000, which is $70 million in today’s money.

This all started when four career criminals, Bruce Reynolds, Charlie Wilson, Gordon Goody, and Ronald Edwards began planning to target the Royal Mail train after being informed about millions of British pounds sterling being transported from Glasgow to London. They formed an alliance with other gang members and set their plan in motion on August 8, 1963.

At night, the robbers tampered with the signals and stopped the train. They boarded the train, beat the conductor, and made off with a huge chunk of money. Many of the robbers were arrested, but the police were only able to recover £375,000. A twist of ate came when the pound was decimalized in 1971, and then the money was worthless to the robbers. (1, 2)


4 In 2003, a pizza delivery man with a collar bomb around his neck robbed the PNC bank. When cops caught him, he said that he was forced to do it, and shortly thereafter the bomb exploded killing the delivery guy. Later, police found out that he was just a victim and was being held as a “bomb hostage.”

Bomb Hostage
Brian Wells, Triple-banded metal collar device. Image credit: United States Federal Bureau of Investigation/web.archieve.org via Wikipedia.org

August 28, 2003, was just an ordinary day for a middle-aged pizza delivery man, Brian Wells. His first delivery of the day was outside of Erie, Pennsylvania, and he was surprised to see that he was delivering the pizza to a television transmission station.

It’s still unclear exactly what happened, but he stepped into a small building and later became the “bomb hostage” of a dark woman with a history of dead husbands and boyfriends, Marjorie Diehl-Armstrong.

She placed a metal collar around his neck that featured four keyed locks and two pipe bombs on it. She handed Wells a shotgun and gave him nine pages of instructions on how Wells has to complete several tasks to get the keys and make his way out of the collar bomb. His first task was to rob a branch of the PNC Bank, which he successfully did.

He escaped with $8,702 in cash but was immediately found by cops. Wells said that he was forced to do it and told them about the bomb. The cops immediately called the bomb squad, but just after three minutes, the bomb exploded killing Wells on live television. In the case of Brian Wells, it was never clear whether he was just a victim or was in the plot from the beginning. (Source)


5 In September 2009, a G4S cash service depot in Västberga in southern Stockholm, Sweden was robbed by a crew of robbers. They landed on the rooftop of the G4S building using a stolen Bell 206 Jet Ranger helicopter. They broke the glass, blew out security doors, and raided the cash store vaults.

Helicopter Robbery
G4S Västberga. Image credit: Holger.Ellgaard via Wikimedia.org

We often see robberies from helicopters in Hollywood movies but Swedish people saw this one for real. In 2009, a G4S cash service depot in Västberga in southern Stockholm, Sweden was robbed in Hollywood style.

Bell Jet Ranger Helicopter
The helicopter was used in the robbery. Image credit: ISE93 via Wikimedia.org

A crew of robbers landed on the rooftop of the G4S building using a stolen Bell 206 Jet Ranger helicopter. Three to four robbers landed on the rooftop and smashed the windows with a sledgehammer, blew the security doors with explosives, and made their way inside the building. Around 20 staff members were inside the building during the heist.

The cops were constantly trying to enter the cash depot but the caltrops were placed on the road to prevent police from entering. The police were unable to call out their helicopters because decoy bombs were placed at the aircraft hangar in a bag marked “bombs.”

In a 20-minute robbery, the gang escaped with “an unconfirmed sum of money.” A 7-million-Swedish-krona reward was promised to anyone with information about the robbers. This was the first-ever “helicopter robbery” in Swedish history. (Source)

Also Read:
10 Criminals Caught Due to Mere Stupidity

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