Unsolved heists have always captured our imagination. Most robberies are attempted by brainless buffoons who are quickly caught, but every now and then a criminal mastermind pulls off the impossible. From using a plane full of passengers as ransom to an unlikely serial bandit in his sixties, we count ten of the strangest unsolved heists throughout history.
10. 300 Million Yen Affair
In 1968, Japan was rocked by the greatest bank heist in the nation’s history.
On the 10th of December, 300 million yen was being transported from a Tokyo bank to a local business. During the journey, the delivery vehicle was pulled over by a concerned police officer. The officer claimed the vehicle was filled with explosives and ordered the driver to step outside. The officer then climbed into the vehicle to begin his investigation… and drove away 300 million yen richer.
As you may have guessed, this was not a real police officer, but a criminal impersonator. While it might sound like a simple scheme, the thief was only able to pull it off because he’d first laid some important groundwork.
You see, in the week before the highway robbery, this thief called in multiple hoax bomb threats. He claimed that explosives had been planted in a bank manager’s home and were set to detonate at a particular time and date. The threats were taken very seriously, and security was beefed up around the manager’s house and the bank itself.
However, when the day arrived nothing happened, which led everyone to think it was an elaborate hoax. A few days later, the thief used the police’s false sense of security to pull off the heist. It was a classic misdirection, as authorities still had all their efforts focused on the bank manager’s home. They had no idea the thief would strike while the money was still in transit.
As for who was behind this daring crime? That remains a mystery, even 50 years later. The case has eluded Japan’s top investigative minds.
9. Hijacked Boeing 727
In November 1971, passengers aboard a Boeing 727 had their worst nightmares realised when a hijacker threatened to blow up their plane. The hijacker was an innocuous middle-aged man who went by the name “D.B. Cooper”.
Midway through the flight, Cooper handed a note to a flight attendant explaining that his briefcase was full of hidden explosives. He demanded four parachutes and $200,000 in cash or he would detonate it. Authorities were notified and quickly made arrangements to get Cooper what he wanted.
When they touched down in Seattle, the passengers were exchanged for the money and parachutes. The plane then took off again – this time with just Cooper and the flight crew onboard. Somewhere between Seattle and Reno, Cooper grabbed his ransom money and parachuted out the back of the plane.
Police conducted an enormous search, but neither Cooper’s body nor the cash were ever found. In 2016, the FBI officially stopped their investigation. This wild case inspired songs, books, movies and TV shows, and is still talked about today.
8. The Northern Bank Robbery
The Northern Bank robbery is still one of the most audacious heists in European history. In 2004, 26.5 million British pounds were stolen from the Belfast bank just a few days before Christmas.
A group of masked gang members were able to infiltrate the Northern Bank by posing as police officers. They then took two bank employees’ families hostage and hid them in a nearby forest. The employees were ordered to go to work the next day and pretend nothing was wrong.
Fearing for their families’ safety, the employees allowed the gang to return to the bank and gave them access to the money storage area. Once inside, the thieves took everything they wanted – and somehow got away with it.
They stole so much money that officials say those responsible still haven’t spent it all over a decade later.
7. Platinum Cheese Slicer
This heist marks a turn for the strange. In March 2015, two dairy lovers stole a highly valuable Boska Holland Cheese Slicer from the Amsterdam Cheese Museum.
This unlikely piece of memorabilia was valued at $28,000, making it an obvious target for thieves. The platinum cheese slicer was studded with 220 diamonds. It was made in collaboration with the Argentinean designer Rodrigo Otazu, who is known for his extravagant designs and has created jewellery for celebrities like Britney Spears and Madonna.
Although the culprits were caught on camera, police were unable to properly ID them. As a reward for any information, the museum is offering a cheese gift basket and the world’s largest fondue set. At this stage, the cheese bandits remain at large.
6. The Termites
In March 2010, a group of daring Parisian robbers dubbed ‘The Termites’ tunnelled into the historic French bank, Crédit Lyonnais. The bank had been closed for renovation work, leaving them plenty of time to complete their heist.
After breaching the entrance with pickaxes and flamethrowers, the thieves tied up the lone security guard and began plundering all 200 of the vaults. When they were finished, they had collected an estimated 34 million dollars in cash and jewellery.
As a parting gift, the Termites set off the sprinkler system, flooding the building and causing irreparable damage. They were never caught, and their incredible feat is considered France’s crime of the century.
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