Eastcastle Street robbery
The Eastcastle Street robbery was, at the time, Britain's largest postwar robbery. It occurred on Wednesday 21 May 1952 in Eastcastle Street when seven masked men held up a post office van just off Oxford Street, central London. The robbers escaped with £287,000 (estimated to be worth, in 2019, approximately £8,320,000).
The robbers used two cars to sandwich the van. The first car emerged slowly from a side street causing the van to slow down, the second car then pulled up alongside. The driver and two attendants were dragged out and coshed and the van was stolen. It was later found abandoned near Regent's Park; 18 of the 31 mailbags were missing. It was found that the van's alarm bell had been tampered with.
The robbery heralded the start of the 'project' (i.e. a carefully planned and executed) crime. The mastermind behind the raid was London gangster Billy Hill and the robbers included George "Taters" Chatham and Terry "Lucky Tel" Hogan.
Prime Minister Winston Churchill demanded daily updates on the police investigation and the Postmaster General, Earl de la Warr, was required to report to the Parliament of the United Kingdom on what had gone wrong. Yet, despite the involvement of over 1,000 police officers, no one was ever caught.
In popular culture
- The Guardian; 26 January 1995; "Final curtain for robber who got away"
- The Times; 22 May 1952; "London Mail Robbery Security Measures Tightened"
- The Times, 23 May 1952; "£200,000 Stolen From Van"
- The Guardian "The Twentieth Century: 10 Crime" 6 March 1999
- Richard Hobbs, 'Chatham, George Henry (1912–1997)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004
- The Guardian; "Obituary: George 'Taters' Chatham: A burglar's rich pickings"; 7 June 1997