A drill used in the Knightsbridge Security Deposit robbery on display at Christie’s is a reminder of the world’s biggest bank heist
Former banker David Gainsborough Roberts has amassed an extraordinary collection of items owned by famous and infamous individuals. A selection of them are currently on display at Christie’s in South Kensington and amongst them are a parliamentary robe worn by Lord Lucan, Lawrence of Arabia’s white silk headdress and a drill used in the Knightsbridge Security Deposit robbery in 1987.
Many of our readers have no doubt walked down Cheval Place in Knightsbridge but few now are likely to remember the events that occurred there on 12th July 1987. Said to be the largest bank robbery in history and led by an Italian lawyer’s son named Valerio Viccei (1955 – 2000), the heist taken from the Knightsbridge Security Deposit netted him and his followers at least £60 million (the equivalent of £147,268,657 today). The true value of what was stolen, however, was far higher as many of those renting the boxes had not accurately declared their contents.
Vicceri was identified as the main culprit due to having cut himself and left bloodstains at the scene but managed to flee to Latin America. He made the mistake, though, of returning to England to retrieve his Ferrari Testarossa and was captured at a roadblock on 12th August 1987. He was sentenced to 22 years in jail.
Whilst serving his sentence at Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight, he began corresponding with the Flying Squad officer who led his arrest, Dick Leach. They referred to each of other as Fred (Leach) and Garfield or The Wolf (Vicceri).
Vicceri was subsequently deported to Italy to serve the rest of his sentence in 1992 in an open jail. He worked for a publishing house and told the now jailed imposter and fraudster lawyer Giovanni di Stefano:
“Now I am different. Perhaps because the prison has changed me or maybe because after Knightsbridge what could I do more? I could never go back to robbing banks after being fingered as the mastermind of an impossible task: to force a super protected vault? That is why the supervising judge has realised that with that robbery my criminal career was over”.
His plan to lead a more honest life wasn’t to be. Whilst on day release in 2000, he found himself in a gunfight with police and was killed.
Famous and Infamous is only display at Christie’s South Kensington in London until 1st September.
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