5 Of the UK's Largest Heists

With our new escape game “The Heist” around the corner, we thought we’d take a look at some of the UK’s largest and most famous heists. Some provided inspiration for our escape room and others shocked us.

1. The Great Train Robbery

Bridego Railway Bridge where the Great Train Robbery took place

Arguably the UK’s most famous heist, the Great Train Robbery was a meticulously planned caper; one which was very fruitful…almost. On the 8th August 1963, a gang of 15 men stole nearly £2.6 million worth of notes from a post office train travelling from Glasgow to London.

Using information from a man known only as “The Ulsterman”, the group set out to rob a travelling post-office train. The train was believed to be carrying  nearly £3 million in its high-value package carriage. Usually, the train would “only” be carrying around £300 000, but the previous weekend had been a Bank Holiday which meant there was much more money travelling down to London than usual.

They stopped the train at a red light signal near Ledburn in Buckinghamshire, overpowered the driver and got him to move the train half a mile along to a bridge. Here they proceeded to the HVP (high-value package) carriage, where they beat the staff with metal bars and proceeded to move the money via a human chain into a waiting van (see recreation below). The crew moved 128 sacks in 20 minutes, and even had to leave £131 000 behind so they could escape in time.

Great Train Robbery via the BBC

Whilst the heist was successful, the crew were caught after their hideout at Leatherslade farm was searched by police a few days later. The plan was for the farm to be torched by one of the team, but the man responsible took £10 000 of the loot and never completed his task. Despite the farm being cleaned, the police searched the farm and found the robbers fingerprints on a ketchup bottle.  Prints were also found famously on a Monopoly board that the gang had used to play Monopoly with real money the night after the robbery.

Most of the crew were arrested with 13 of the 17 suspects serving time in prison for the crime. “The Ulsterman” was never identified.



Worth a Watch:

A Tale of Two Thieves

The Great Train Robbery

2. The Brinks Mat Robbery

Heathrow Trading Estate after the Heist on the Brinks Mat building. This is the Uk's second biggest Heist

On 26th November 1983, 20 years after the great train robbery, 6 men broke into the Brinks-Mat warehouse on the Heathrow International trading estate. The group gained entry to the warehouse via a security guard. Once inside they poured petrol over the staff and threatened them with a lit match if they refused to reveal the combination to the vault.The gang expected to steal £3.2 million in cash from the vault but they made away with 3 tonnes of gold bullion as well as diamonds and the original cash, ending up with an eye-watering haul worth over £26 million.

Two of the gang were arrested but most of the crew evaded capture. They melted the gold down and mixed it with copper to hide its true source, before selling it back to the market. The vast majority of the gold has never been recovered, and it’s been said that if you bought gold jewellery made in the UK after 1983 that you are probably wearing gold from the Brinks Mat heist.






3. Hatton Gardens Heist

The Entrance to the Hatton Gardens Safety Deposit Box company

The Hatton Gardens Heist is the most recent on our list and although it did not elicit the most money, it did attract a huge amount of media attention. The publicity came with the surprising age of the robbers. The eldest member of the gang, Brian Reader, was 76 when he was arrested for his role in the robbery and the average age of the suspects was 64.

On April 2nd 2015, the Hatton Garden crew broke into the safety deposit vault of the building. It was a Bank Holiday weekend (a popular time for a heist?) and staff locked the doors at around 9:20, and were not due back until the following Tuesday. A few minutes later the crew disabled the communal lift for the building and descended the shaft to the basement vault. They drilled through the thick walls and made a space big enough for one of them to climb through. Over the next two days, they emptied 72 safety deposit boxes and transported them away in a white van.

The hole the robbers made in Hatton Garden vault

Most of the crew were arrested and they were sentenced to a combined total of over 43 years for the robbery. They were also ordered to pay £27.5 million or face extra terms in jail. So far only £732 000 has been repaid. Thankfully no one was harmed during this heist, but sadly the Hatton Garden Safety Deposit Company went into liquidation a few months after the robbery.






Worth a Watch:

White Rabbit Project, Episode 5 Heist!

King Of Thieves

Hatton Garden

4. Securitas Depot Robbery

The Securitas Depot robbery is the largest cash-only robbery in British history. It’s also the most shocking on our list due to the lengths that the gang went to in order to gain access to the money. On the 21st February 2006 Colin Dixon, the manager of the depot, was pulled over by what he believed to be an unmarked police car. He was taken into the car for “questioning” by a man dressed in a police uniform. Once in the back seat, a gun was pulled on him, he was bound and driven to a farm in Kent.

The gang then horrifyingly moved to take his wife and 8-year-old son hostage too. Dressed in police uniforms and employing the same deceptive methods, they managed to convince Mr. Dixon’s wife that her husband had been involved in a car accident and would need to transport her and her son to the hospital to see him. The two duly obliged, convinced by the story told to them. Of course, they were not taken to the hospital but rather the same farm where Mr. Dixon was held captive. He was told by his captors that they would “blow a hole” in one of them if he failed to cooperate.

At 01:00 the next day the family were taken to the Securitas depot, where 14 staff were bound and taken hostage. Wearing latex masks and balaclavas to hide their identity, the gang filled a lorry with over £53 Million of banknotes and had to leave a further £154 million behind as they’d run out of space in their lorry.

The thieves rounded up the hostages and locked them in metal cages before fleeing the scene. The hostages managed to escape when the manager’s 8-year-old son was able to squeeze between the bars and retrieve the key for the cages from another staff member.  

Returning to the Kent farm, the gang counted up and divided the money before going their separate ways. Over 36 people have been arrested in connection with the heist. Two of the ring leaders were caught after one accidentally recorded plans for the heist on his phone.



Worth a Read:

Heist: The True Story of the World’s Biggest Cash Robbery 

5. Baker Street Robbery

The entrance to the Lloyds bank after the Heist

A street better known for a detective than for criminals played host to a theft on September 11 1971. On the day £3 Million was stolen from the vault of the Lloyds bank. The crew rented a leather goods store 2 doors down from the bank. From here they tunnelled 50 feet, passing under the Chicken Inn restaurant and straight into the vault. To avoid being overheard, they dug on weekends, and once through to the vault used explosives to gain entry. 

The robbers were overheard by an amateur radio enthusiast, who notified the police. The police used this information to check the 750 banks within 10 miles of the enthusiast’s receiver. They even searched the Lloyds bank in Baker Street whilst the gang were inside! Fortunately for the thieves, the police believed the bank was secure as the security doors were still locked, so left the bank whilst the robbery continued undetected.

An annotated photo of the baker street heist

This heist is particularly interesting for its links to other crimes and the conspiracy theories surrounding it. The leader of the Hatton Gardens heist, Brian Reader, was believed to have been behind this heist in Baker Street too. Both of the robberies having a very similar MO. Reader was also linked to the Brink’s Mat robbery after he was convicted for handling stolen goods from the heist in 1986.

The conspiracy surrounding the Baker Street robbery is that the crime was in fact planned by MI5 to recover some compromising photographs of Princess Margaret. Supporters of the theory believe that the press were told not to report on the robbery by the government, and believe that the fact the bank wasn’t searched properly was due to the orders from high up.

The film “The Bank Job” starring Jason Statham is based on the Baker Street Robbery.



Worth a Watch:

The Bank Job

We hope you enjoyed reading about these famous Heists! If you want to take the role of thief and have a go stealing a diamond from a jewellery store yourself  then take a look at our newest game The Heist”.

The Story Behind Save the City

In this post we’ll take a look at the deeper story behind our Save the City escape game. Find out who Ignatius Gouge is and what his motivations are…

Save the City Escape Game

For decades now, one of the greatest minds in architecture, Ignatius Gouge has thanklessly served Newcastle upon Tyne. Every day residents and tourists alike marvel at his greatest accomplishments, taking in their beauty and pondering the complexity of these designs.

Unknowingly, the popularity of his designs and the solitude he enjoys has proved to be a deadly combination. Losing his mind, Ignatius has fought to remove a dangerous thought possessing his mind. These people know the buildings, but not the man. This has proved to be increasingly unsettling for Ignatius meaning Newcastle is now facing a disturbing prospect: complete annihilation.

Finding comfort in solitude, Ignatius retreats into his Westgate Road office in the heart of the city. The academic community, long since aware of his delusions of grandeur have turned their backs on him, discrediting his achievements. Here he spends his days maniacally trying to achieve the celebrity status he believes he deserves, only venturing out to visit his creations on rare occasions. At the base of the Sage, he rushes from person to person demanding any form of recognition for his creations, unfortunately, the only attention he attracts is from law enforcement. Returning to his office with an Anti-Social Behaviour Order and aware of the laughter from former peers his thoughts turn to revenge. The people of Newcastle will remember his name!

The protagonist of the tale, a colleague and friend, John Sykes has begun to notice this dangerous change. After witnessing Ignatius leaving a construction site with a number of volatile chemicals he begins to suspect the worst. Sykes has unsuccessfully conducted surveillance and interference on his friend’s plans, noting Ignatius is cunning and tricky like a fox. He has noticed him fortifying his office with a series of puzzles and challenges, a challenge for any would-be heroes attempting to defuse the bomb within the hour timer. With Ignatius aware of John’s attempts time is of the essence. Newcastle needs heroes now more than ever. After being debriefed by John, these heroes must take on the challenges left by Ignatius in the hopes that they can preserve this beautiful city.

One thing is for certain, whatever the outcome for our heroes, we will remember the name, Ignatius Gouge…..

5 Facts About the Grimm Brothers That Will SHOCK You!

With the upcoming release of our new game, The Three Bears, we’ve taken a look into the famous fairy tale writers. Thanks to the Grimm Brothers Fairytale book produced by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm we are dedicating this post to some interesting and relatively unknown facts about the two!

#1 Tall Tales

The Grimm Tales was never actually meant to be used as children’s stories! Upon their first creation, they were simply a collection of stories with the intention to preserve the spirit of the Germanic people, not written by the brothers but simply folklore brought together. It was part of a scholarly project carried out by the brothers, which didn’t focus primarily on the stories themselves. The main purpose of this research project was linguistics and this book was simply a by-product which they produced along the way.

#2 Motherly Meaning

Illustration from the Grimm Brothers Hansel and Gretel

Despite not writing the 210 various stories, the brothers did change some major facts within a few of the fairytales! In both the Snow White and Hansel & Gretal original stories, the evil stepmothers were initially just their mothers. This, however, was changed by Jacob and Wilhelm, with the intention to protect the sanctity of motherhood. 

It is also believed that this purification occurred due to the brothers devout Christianity. Other changes were also made to the stories within the book, not made by the brothers but more so the producers as the stories became more popular for children. One of these was that, in Cinderella, the ugly stepsisters initially chopped off parts of their foot in order to fit into the slipper!

#3 Financial Struggle

The brothers lived in severe financial hardship and poverty for a significant portion of the lives, particularly while trying to develop the book. They both lost their jobs at the University they worked at due to a political dispute and were living off one meal a day when the Grimm Fairytales book was finally published. It was very lucky for them that it took off in the way it did!

#4 Word Wizards

Alongside the book of fairytales, the brothers began the foundations of a German dictionary. This dictionary grew and grew, ending up extremely large and was only completed 120 years later! This was long after both brothers had died, leaving more than one legacy in their wake.

#5 Biblical Sales

The 1857 final edition of the Grimm Fairytales book is one of the most reproduced books of all time, particularly this most recent time frame! It is believed that only Shakespeare and the Bible have surpassed it so far, with many different versions available thanks to Englishman Edgar Taylor who began the translation and production process of one of the earlier copies of the book in 1823. This is partially what kicked off the spiralling fame and popularity of these stories. 

We hope you enjoyed learning some new things about these magical stories and some of the secrets they possess, and it inspires you to come and uncover the secrets of our new game, The Three Bears! 

If you’d also like to take a look at the stories, there’s an excellent version available on Amazon.

The History of Escape Rooms

We’ll journey through the history of escape rooms, taking a look at their origins and influences. We’ll also explore some of the things in popular culture that have helped grow escape rooms!

Computer Game Origins

The idea for live escape rooms stemmed mainly video games. Earliest examples come from mystery type games such as John Wilson’s Behind Closed Doors. Behind Closed Doors bares all the hallmarks of an escape room, you are trapped in a single location, a toilet in this case, and need to escape solving puzzles and finding helpful items.With it being 1988 the game was text only but allowed you to type commands such as “examine doors” in order to solve the challenges.

The next game along a similar theme is Myst a 1993 game where you have to solve puzzles in order to make it off an island. This is a really cool game to check out. It was praised at the time for its level of immersion and even helped pioneer the use of the CD-ROM. 

However, the game most linked to live escape rooms is Crimson Room. Created in 2003 by Toshimitsu Takagi you wake up in an odd, unfamiliar room with no memory of how you ended up there. You need to look around the room, collect and discover objects and find an escape. It can still be found online and started a puzzle movement in Japan known as Takagism (after its creator).

Myst Adventure game screenshot

Real Life Escape Games

In 2007 the first real escape game was designed by a company called SCRAP in Japan. The story seems quite complicated, but from what we can make out you had to solve challenges in order to turn back time and stop a student from being shot by their teacher. SCRAP still make escape games today and have even been involved in creating an escape experience at the AT&T stadium in Texas for hundreds of people. After SCRAP’s success, escape rooms spread across Japan and became one of the favourite activities of 25 – 30-year-olds across the country.

From here the games spread to Europe with the first room (ParaPark) opening in Budapest in 2011. Although the owner says he wasn’t inspired by the Japanese rooms they certainly share a very similar concept.  The rooms took off in Budapest becoming extremely popular. It’s no surprise that the city that’s home to the creator of the Rubik’s cube fell in love with the puzzle rooms, and Budapest has since become the world capital of escape games.

In 2012 the rooms arrived in America and began to expand on a global scale. In 2013 they were only 7 in the UK and, according to exit games, has since grown to over 1000 different games in the UK in 495 venues. 

Escape Rooms Go Big!

Escape games are no longer for a niche market and have attracted interest from all over. Popular TV shows such as The Big Bang Theory and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia have featured escape rooms during episodes and escape rooms have even been commissioned to help promote popular shows and movies.

Game of Thrones Escape Room by HBO

HBO created a Game of Thrones escape room based around Castle Black, and the Sherlock TV show partnered up with Time Run to build the set and get the actors to provide in game voiceovers for the Game is Now in London. On top of this Hollywood has taken further advantage of the escape room craze by releasing a couple of horror films (both called Escape Room).

Other Influences

There have been plenty of other influences of escape games that deserve a mention! Films such as Tomb Raider and Indiana Jones have provided inspiration for plenty of escape room sets and puzzles, with our own Fiorella’s Cave being loosely inspired by both.

Detective stories such as Sherlock Holmes have also influenced escape rooms. A good detective story makes you try and work out the answers before the hero and provides a few twists along the way. The only difference with an escape room is that you’re the hero!

Some classic TV shows have also helped influence escape rooms. The most obvious being the Crystal Maze, where contestants had to complete challenges in order to get to those all-important Crystals. (There are now even a couple of Crystal Maze’s you can experience for yourself in both London and Manchester.) Fort Boyard was also massively popular, and share lots of similar elements.

Richard Ayoade in The Crystal Maze

The Future of Escape Rooms

Who knows what the future holds? But as escape games become more popular, and the bigger brands in Hollywood get involved there could be some amazing rooms coming out. There’s also more of a movement towards live theatre as oppose to just escape rooms, with live actors and bigger sets. Some ideas are even to have weekend long, large-scale escape rooms.

Whatever happens, we look forward to some of the fun and crazy games of the future, and hopefully come up with a few ourselves!