HE was the mastermind behind the £26million Brink’s-Mat heist.
But friends say Brian Robinson, who later managed to turn his life around, “didn’t have a tanner” when he finally emerged from prison.
And he was still of modest means when he died following a long illness just before his 78th birthday at the end of February, in a nursing home in Kidbrooke, South East London.
A friend said: “Robbo was a lovely man to his friends and family. But he was f***ed for his money.”
As surviving members of the Brink’s-Mat gang prepare to pay their respects at his funeral next Monday, The Sun speaks to the police commander who knew him best — and reveals how the missing millions from the notorious heist cursed Robinson’s life.
The story of the stolen loot may have ended almost as soon as it began, as the gang’s blue Ford Transit van broke down on London’s Earl’s Court Road shortly after the raid.
If passing police had looked closer early that Saturday morning on November 26, 1983, they would have noticed the van was weighted down below its wheel arches — with three tons of gold.
The Transit’s heavily armed occupants had stolen the bullion less than an hour earlier from the nearby Brink’s-Mat security warehouse at Heathrow.
Their van eventually started, but at least three murders could have been prevented if the gold had been found there and then.
‘GET ON THE FLOOR OR YOU’RE F***ING DEAD’
Those entrusted to mind the gold stitched up Robinson — nicknamed “The Colonel” — and fellow ringleader Micky McAvoy, who were later jailed for 25 years for the raid.
Robinson had assembled the premier division team of six South London robbers for the Brink’s-Mat heist.
McAvoy wanted members of the Arif crime family, specialists in armed robbery, on the job.
Robinson, however, vetoed them as an Arif associate was involved in the earlier murder of his close friend Peter Hennessy.
At that time, Robinson was a 40-year-old career criminal who had served several prison sentences and was on a Flying Squad list of London’s 20 most prolific armed robbers.
So, too, was childhood friend Tony White, who had just served a 12-year sentence for a heist, and the younger man McAvoy.
Robinson lived with partner Jennifer and their two young sons in a council flat on a run-down housing estate in Bermondsey, South East London.
Jennifer’s brother, Tony Black, was a security guard at the Brink’s-Mat Heathrow compound and was groomed by Robinson.
Former soldier Black let the masked gang into the warehouse just after 6.30am that November morning as five guards were preparing to deliver 6,800 gold ingots for a flight to the Far East.
McAvoy emerged in a doorway brandishing a 9mm Browning pistol and snarled: “Get on the floor or you’re f***ing dead!”
He smashed guard Peter Bentley over the head with the gun. Peter and his colleague Robin Riseley were hooded, bound with tape and doused in petrol.
They were warned they would be torched unless they handed over keys and combination codes.
But Robin was unable to remember the recently changed numbers to three safes in the vault. It was then that the gang’s attention was drawn to a pile of grey shoe boxes on the floor — each of them was filled with gold ingots, which they swarmed over.
“Merry Christmas,” yelled one of the gang as they left.
Robbo was a lovely man to his friends and family…but he was f***ed for his money
Their high spirits continued as they drove into London.
An associate told The Sun: “They pulled up at traffic lights next to a Rolls-Royce. One of them pointed at the Roller and then himself and put two fingers up as if to say he was buying two.
“They all fell about laughing. But it nearly ended in disaster when the van broke down and a police car drove by.” As well as the gold, the robbers stole 20-kilo bars of platinum, travellers’ cheques and cash worth around £400,000.
Their £26million haul is worth more than £100million in today’s currency.
But the gang revealed too much knowledge about the guards and security systems.
Detectives soon worked out the relationship between Robinson and Black, who cracked under questioning.
Cops swooped on the homes of Robinson, McAvoy and White 11 days after the robbery.
Robinson was picked out in an identity parade by one of the guards as the robber referred to in court as the “Cool Boss”. McAvoy, known as “The Bully” by guards, was also picked out but White was not.
Robinson claimed he was visiting his mum in Kent on the morning of the robbery. And to this day friends insist the mastermind of the robbery was not on the job itself.
In December 1984, an Old Bailey jury acquitted White but convicted Robinson and McAvoy of conspiracy to rob.
Both politely thanked the judge as they were jailed for 25 years.
Robinson and McAvoy were in a quandary. Their only hope of avoiding spending the best years of their lives behind steel bars was to hand over the gold bars. To name the other robbers was unthinkable.
The bullion had been given to South London minicab firm boss and villain Brian Perry to dispose of. Perry recruited VAT fraudster and fence Kenneth Noye to distribute the gold, and used crooked financial genius Gordon Parry to launder the profits. To- gether with solicitor Michael Rel- ton, Parry set up off-shore accounts. The money was then recycled back to Britain and invested in property.
McAvoy’s mistress Kathy Meacock, who he later married, blew the money trail when a prison officer monitoring a visit saw her showing off her new farmhouse in Country Life magazine.
‘HE WILL SIGN HIS OWN DEATH WARRANT’
The house — where Meacock reportedly kept two Alsatians named Brinks and Mat — was bought from a Liechtenstein account through Relton. He had also arranged the purchase of a new home for McAvoy’s wife Jackie less than a mile away. Cops observed middleman Perry regularly visiting Jackie, with whom he is said to have begun a relationship.
Perry was also leading McAvoy and Robinson a merry dance over the gold.
Former Met commander Roy Ramm visited the pair on four occasions at Leicester jail.
Mr Ramm told The Sun: “Brian was no spring chicken and very quiet during the meetings.
“McAvoy did most of the talking and they were keen to get their half of the gold back and work out the mechanisms of how it would be handed over.
“They nominated Tony White and Brian Perry to negotiate with us on their behalf.”
Ramm met with White at the National Theatre on London’s South Bank. He said: “Tony was a rough diamond who was out of his depth.
“Then we saw Perry, who was a bit drunk when he came into Scotland Yard.
“He said they had lost control of the gold and could not get it back.
“We went back up to Leicester and told Robinson and McAvoy what Perry had told us.
“It was clear they knew this already and there was an air of resignation from both of them.
“Someone on the outside had this massive pile of gold. There is no doubt it led to bloodshed.”
A letter written by McAvoy to White from his cell was intercepted, in which he warned: “I won’t have anyone else keeping my share for their own needs.
“He will sign his own death warrant to go through with it. I have no intention of being f***ed for my money.”
Someone on the outside had this massive pile of gold…there is no doubt it led to bloodshed
Robinson’s decision to keep the Arif gang off the Brink’s-Mat job now backfired as they were reluctant to get involved.
When cops swooped on Perry, they found a sign above his desk, saying: “Remember the Golden Rule. Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”
Perry was jailed for nine years in 1992 for handling stolen property, while Relton got 12 years and Parry ten.
Noye served eight years for handling the bullion and later copped a life term for a 1996 road rage attack. He was released on parole in 2019. Robinson and McAvoy left prison in 2000.
The following year, Perry was shot dead by masked assassins outside his Bermondsey minicab office. Two men were later acquitted of his murder. Relton is believed to be living in hiding in the US while Parry’s whereabouts are unknown. Pals say that after leaving prison Robinson went straight, converting cheques for cash before opening a wine bar which later closed.
His relationship with Jennifer ended after Brink’s-Mat and he found a new partner.
Robinson also formed a close bond with the elder of his two sons, with whom he lived before moving into sheltered accommodation in Beckenham, Kent.
McAvoy, now living mainly in Spain and suffering poor health, is unlikely to be among the mourners at Robinson’s funeral as the pair broke off contact.
A friend said: “Robbo got his life back on track when he got out of prison.
“He was a robber — but the best bit of work he ever did also turned into his worst.”
Deaths linked to ‘cursed’ job
CLAIMS that the Brink’s-Mat robbery led to 20 murders have been dismissed as fantasy – but former Scotland Yard commander Roy Ramm says there is “no doubt” it caused bloodshed.
Here are some men who fell victim, directly or indirectly, to the curse of Brink’s-Mat . . .
John Fordham: The undercover detective constable was stabbed to death by fence Kenneth Noye in the grounds of Noye’s home in West Kingsdown, Kent, in 1985.
Noye and Brian Reader, later of Hatton Garden heist fame, were cleared of DC Fordham’s murder on the grounds of self-defence.
They were convicted of handling stolen bullion after 11 bars of gold were found.
Brian Perry: Entrusted by the robbers to look after their gold, Perry was shot dead outside his minicab firm in Bermondsey, South East London, in 2001. His murder remains unsolved.
Charlie Wilson: The Great Train robber was shot dead by the swimming pool of his Spanish villa in 1990. He was reportedly blamed for the loss of a £3million cocaine shipment funded with Brink’s-Mat money.
George Francis: Suspected of handling the stolen bullion, Francis was shot dead outside his Bermondsey courier firm in 2003 over a “long-term” debt.
It is unclear whether that debt was connected to Brink’s-Mat. Two men were convicted of his murder.
John Palmer: Nicknamed Goldfinger, the smelter was shot dead at his Essex home in June 2015. Detectives suspect his murder was linked to his timeshare business in Tenerife, which he funded with Brink’s-Mat money. No one has been charged – and his widow Marnie has given up hope of police finding the killer.
Solly Nahome: Gunned down outside his North London home in 1998, Nahome was involved in the distribution of the stolen bullion.
He was also the money man for the notorious Adams crime family. Police do not believe his murder was linked to Brink’s-Mat and are now investigating a prime suspect.
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