It was a £3million bank heist that was said to have been inspired by a Sherlock Holmes story – on the street where the fictional detective lived.
The 1971 Baker Street robbery saw a gang tunnel 40feet into the basement vault of Lloyds Bank, before they made off with up to £3million – the equivalent of more than £35million today – in money and jewels.
Now, a new TV documentary tells how the heist may have been a plot by the security services to seize photos of Princess Margaret in a clinch with gangster and actor John Bindon.
The heist became known as the ‘walkie-talkie bank job’ because of a tip-off from a member of the public who overheard the robbers talking on a two-way radio.
A government gagging order, known as a D notice, was then imposed to prevent further coverage and National Archives on the raid remain sealed until 2071 – a highly unusual step for a crime with no apparent risk to national security.
Princess Margaret is seen relaxing on the Caribbean island of Mustique with actor and gangster John Bindon
A film based on the raid, 2008 hit The Bank Job, which starred Jason Statham, told of its alleged connection to Princess Margaret.
It depicted the compromising images of Margaret and Bindon being placed in Lloyds for safe-keeping by Michael X, a well-known criminal who was originally from the Caribbean.
She was known to have socialised with Bindon and was pictured with him on the Caribbean island of Mustique in 1974.
Bindon, who had links with the Kray twins and had starred as a crime boss alongside Michael Caine in 1971 film Get Carter, was said to be so well endowed that he could hang five half-pint beer tankards from his manhood at once.
Four men were jailed in 1973 for the raid and Michael X was hanged for murder in Trinidad in 1975.
The new documentary, Greatest Heists with Pierce Brosnan, airs on Sky History tonight.
Brosnan says in the documentary: ‘The safety deposit boxes at Baker Street Lloyds Bank are where London’s rich and powerful stash their wealth — and their secrets.
The 1971 Baker Street robbery saw a gang tunnel 40feet into the basement vault of Lloyds Bank, before they made off with up to £3million – the equivalent of more than £35million today – in money and jewels
Guy Dark, manager of Lloyds Bank in Baker Street, is seen outside the bank after the raid
Princess Margaret, centre, and her friends Lord Colin Tennant (left) and Lady Anne Tennant waiting on the jetty at Mustique to greet Queen Elizabeth II, during her Silver Jubilee tour of the West Indies. The Royal yacht Britannia is in the background
Princess Margaret is seen talking to a friend on the island of Mustique in 1976
Princess Margaret is seen in 1960 waving from her coach outside Buckingham Palace as she leaves for her honeymoon with husband Anthony Armstrong-Jones
‘It’s one of England’s most renowned banks and supposedly theft-proof.
It was also a tantalising target for the right set of thieves — and in Seventies Britain the number of bold thieves is growing.
‘They look outside the box for inspiration and find it somewhere surprising. A thief then attempts something outrageous.’
The gang were said to have been inspired by Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle’s short story The Red Headed League, which told of the digging of a tunnel as part of an audacious attempt to rob a bank in June 1890.
Speaking at their trial, prosecutor Robert Harman said: ‘In September, 1971, this story was re-enacted in real life… a tunnel was dug from a shop two doors away and the thieves came up through the floor of the safe deposit vault.
‘They got clean away with money and valuables in excess of £1,500,000.’
Dr Emmeline Thomas, a criminologist at City University in London, says in the show: ‘These documents are under embargo, we’ll not see them until at least 2071. What’s being covered up? Why is this a national secret?’
The alleged photos were said to be so damaging that the security services had to get hold of them to ensure that no establishment figures could be blackmailed.
Margaret had a long-time love of Mustique, where she was given a plot of land as a wedding present by her former escort Colin Tennant, later Lord Glenconner.
By the time of the Baker Street raid, Margaret’s marriage to Lord Snowdon was in deep trouble. She retreated to Mustique with her lover Roddy Llewellyn, a landscape gardener 17 years her junior.
Speaking of the security at Lloyds, Brosnan adds: ‘Its bombproof door weighs five tons, its steel-reinforced concrete walls are three- feet thick, and its 1,000 safety deposit boxes require two keys to open them — and then there are the alarms.
‘The masterminds behind every great heist see what most people don’t, risking everything to pull off the score of a lifetime.
A film based on the raid, 2008 hit The Bank Job, which starred Jason Statham, told of its alleged connection to Princess Margaret
‘It takes a bold plan, the right team and the skill to stay one step ahead of the law.
‘But Gavin’s Holmes-inspired plan isn’t simple. He needs to map a tunnel path to stop precisely below the vault.
‘He needs experts with the right know-how to dig the tunnel, he needs someone smart enough to disable the sophisticated alarms. What he needs is a team.’
Ringleader Anthony Gavin, along with Benjamin Wolfe, Reg Tucker and Thomas Stephens were all jailed for their parts in the raid.
The Daily Mail’s coverage of the Baker Street raid on Lloyds Bank told of police blunders