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IN THE NEWS
TOUR OF THE MONTH
ON THIS DAY IN LONDON
18th January 1973 Born today: Crispian Mills, London, vocalist/guitarist (Kula Shaker)
18th January 1950 Christopher Fry's Venus Observed, premieres in London
18th January 1884 General Charles Gordon departs London for Khartoum
The Walkie-Talkie Bank Job
This is where the famous walkie-talkie bank job took place.
Location: 185 Baker Street, London, NW1 6XB
Description: An amateur radio 'ham', Robert Rowland, alerted Scotland Yard that he had overheard a robbery in progress somewhere within a 10-mile radius of Central London. Rowland, who lived in Wimpole Street, had been tuned in to the 27.15 megacycles radio frequency at 11.00pm on Saturday, 11th September 1971, trying to contact a fellow 'ham' in Australia. He picked up a conversation between what sounded like a team of bank raiders and their lookout on a nearby rooftop. He began to tape the radio exchanges, while trying to communicate his suspicions to the police. At 2.00am, a senior officer decided to take his report seriously and called in radio detector vans in an attempt to trace the transmissions. Unfortunately, by the time Post Office engineers could be brought in from weekend leave; the 'walkie-talkie' conversations had ceased.
As the search intensified, police officers checked on 750 banks in the inner London area, paying special attention to the 150 banks within a mile of Wimpole Street. On Sunday afternoon, they visited Lloyd's Bank on the corner of Baker Street and Marylebone Road, but found no signs of entry - the 15-inch thick doors of the vault were intact and secured by a time lock. They were unaware that the raiders were still inside. It was not until the bank opened for business after the weekend that the robbery was discovered. The contents of scores of safety deposit boxes in the vault had been looted in what was Britains biggest ever robbery.
The gang had dug a 40-foot tunnel from the basement of Le Sac, a leather goods shop that they had leased, two doors away from the bank. The robbers tunnelled under the Chicken Inn restaurant and then, using a thermic lance, through the 3ft of reinforced concrete which formed the floor of the vault. The floor was not wired to the alarm system, as it was thought to be impenetrable. Eight tons of rubble were excavated and left behind in the shop when they escaped, with the contents of 268 deposit boxes.
The 'walkie-talkie robbery', as it became known, was curiously similar in execution to the one solved by the legendary Baker Street resident Sherlock Holmes in Arthur Conan Doyle's 'The Red Headed League'. In this case, however, countless questions remain unanswered. Only four men were convicted in connection with the crime and much of the loot was never recovered. Of the stolen property that the police did manage to retrieve, most was never reclaimed.
Apparently, before leaving, they wrote on the inside wall of the safe 'let Sherlock Holmes try to solve this'
It's now the subject of a film in 2008 The Bank Job starring Jason Statham (pictured).