Although society has developed significantly throughout history, crime still unfortunately remains a prominent feature of our civilization. The recent ‘smash and grab’ raid on Selfridges flagship store in London, in July of this year, in which six armed and masked men carried out an attack on the famous store, reflects a culture that has been seen throughout history.
Such an occurrence was seen on the day of May 9th 1671, when Thomas ‘Colonel’ Blood, an Anglo-Irish officer and renowned jewel thief, attempted an audacious feat to steal the crown jewels of Charles II from the Tower of London. After laying the foundations of acquaintance with the newly appointed ‘master of the jewel house’, a 77 year old Talbot Edwards, Blood brought three accomplices to help with the heist; after binding and gagging Edwards, the foursome snatched the priceless jewels and made for their escape, but were captured before they left the tower grounds.
In this case, the thieves were unexpectedly pardoned, two centuries later however in 1852 several former male convicts from Van Diemen’s Land (modern Tasmania) were being sentenced to lengthy sentences for orchestrating one of the major crimes of the Victorian gold rush. Over the nights of April 1-2 of the same year the troop robbed at gunpoint the Nelson, a Scottish barque, of £30,000 worth of gold as she lay at anchor in Hobsons Bay, Melbourne.
One of history’s more extraordinary heists however, was seen with the ‘Great Train Robbery’ of 1963, when a group led by a Mr Brian Reynolds successfully made off with over £2.6 million (equivalent to £46 million today) when they set upon a Royal Mail train heading between Glasgow and London in the early hours of August 8, 1963. Also referred to as the ‘Cheddington Mail Van Raid’, the group, which included the infamous Ronnie Biggs who evaded arrest for nearly forty years, deeply shocked the country and today remains one of the most prominent heists of not only our time, but of history itself.
It is clear to see therefore, that although time passes and societies become more ordered and civilized, the desire to satisfy one of the oldest of sins, greed, still remains a significant component of the human psyche, and as history has shown, such acts of selfishness become more daring and extravagant over time. If this is truly the case, one can only imagine what level such heists will progress to in the future, and the extent to which they will affect the social order of the time.