A short history of airport gold heists (because Toronto's isn't the first)

While an airport gold heist might sound more like a movie plot than real life, the headline-making heist at Toronto's Pearson International Airport isn't the first time it's happened. Here are a few other notable examples.

When robbers get away with gold, their exploits tend to make headlines

Police speak after $20M worth of gold, other items stolen in 'very rare' heist

10 months ago
Duration 1:05
Speaking at a news conference Thursday evening, Peel Regional Police said $20 million worth of gold and other high value items were stolen after being offloaded from a plane earlier this week at Toronto's Pearson Airport.

A headline-making heist at Toronto's Pearson International Airport is reported to involve the theft of more than $20 million worth of gold and other valuable items.

Peel Regional Police say an investigation is underway. It is not immediately clear if the gold remains in Canada.

Details are still emerging, with police only revealing late Thursday that a heist had even occurred.

"We're looking at all angles on how this item was stolen, so I don't really have a lot of details on how it was stolen to provide or any suspect," Peel Duty Insp. Stephen Duivesteyn told reporters.

While an airport gold heist might sound more like a movie plot than real life, this isn't the first time it's happened. Here are a few other notable examples:

WATCH | What police will be looking for after the Pearson heist: 

Gold heist: What will police be looking for?

10 months ago
Duration 1:33
P.Y. Bourduas, a former deputy RCMP commissioner, outlines what law enforcement will be looking for after a stunning Toronto-area heist in which thieves made off with $20 million in 'high value' items - including gold.

'The Goldfinger touch' in 1966

Twelve bars of gold bullion were supposed to be transported from the Winnipeg airport to the Royal Canadian Mint in Ottawa in early March 1966.

Instead, the bars were taken away by what the Globe and Mail described as "two men with the Goldfinger touch."

The newspaper reported that the thieves wore Air Canada ramp handlers' uniforms and "presented what appeared to be a properly authorized order form."

At least five arrests were later made, according to the newspaper's followup reporting.

As for the stolen gold, the Toronto Star reported six months later that it was mostly recovered, "except a piece cut off from one of the bricks."

Ottawa's 1974 airport heist

In 1974, an estimated $700,000 worth of gold bars was stolen from the Ottawa International Airport.

The Globe and Mail reported that a man dressed in an Air Canada uniform forced a security guard at gunpoint to let the man and another robber gain access to a freight office and then the gold.

With time, members of the Stopwatch Gang — the Canadian bank robbers known for their precision heists — would become known as being involved.

The heist merited mention when Stopwatch Gang leader Patrick (Paddy) Mitchell died in 2007. And it was also mentioned in the obituary story in the New York Times when Stephen Reid died in 2018.

The Brink's-Mat 1983 heist

Four decades ago, a story was making headlines all over the world — and being covered by CBC News on The National.

Reporter Brian Stewart had the details on the dramatic robbery that occurred at the Brink's-Mat warehouse, near London's Heathrow Airport.

WATCH | A 1983 report on the heist: 

The 1983 Brink's-Mat heist

40 years ago
Duration 2:18
The CBC's Brian Stewart reports on a violent heist that occurred in London, England on Nov. 26, 1983.

Six armed men acted early in the morning of Nov. 26, 1983, getting away with the gold.

"They made off with an incredible three tons of pure gold," Stewart told viewers, noting the stolen bullion was worth an estimated $46 million — a figure that would exceed $120 million today, with inflation factored in.

A $40M take in 2019

Some $40 million US worth of gold and other precious metals were taken in a violent heist involving armed men and a hostage-taking at the cargo terminal of Guarulhos International Airport in Sao Paulo, Brazil, four years ago.

Reuters reported that the assailants arrived in a vehicle that was marked to look like it belonged to police.

A fake police truck, which had been used in a robbery, is seen being loaded on a transport truck.
A fake police vehicle that was used in a robbery is transported on a flatbed truck in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in July 2019. (Victor R. Caivano/The Associated Press)

With files from The Canadian Press and Reuters