The Bank Job Movie: What They Didn’t Tell You About the ‘Walkie Talkie’ Heist in London 1971?

  • AUTHOR: midhat
  • POSTED ON: February 1, 2021

Almost half a century ago in 1971, one of the most thrilling, adventurous, and audacious bank robberies happened in the history of Britain: a whopping amount of £500,000 was stolen from Lloyds in London’s Baker Street in 1971. Dubbed as the ‘Walkie Talkie’ heist, the investigations related to this crime remain a mystery till this day.

However, in an attempt to explain why this bank robbery and its investigations have been kept a mystery, filmmakers have tried to give this heist a Hollywood treatment. The Bank Job is a 2008 thriller movie, which revolves around some superior police officers, politicians, some important members of the Royal family, and some daring bank raiders – casting Saffron Burrows and Jason Statham as thieves.

Written by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, the movie gets most of its information from a “deep throat” secret informer who participated in the original investigation of the crime in 1971.

The news of this heist remained on the front-page of newspapers for quite some days in September 1971. Strangely, the government tried to suppress the coverage of this news with no apparent reason. By then, the bank robbery incident had already sparked a wave of concern and grabbed nationwide attention because of the incompetence of security officers.

The officers failed to react timely after being informed by a civilian of suspicious conversation between robbers over a walkie-talkie.

Producer, Charles Raven described the movie as “amazing, untold, sex and corruption. It’s going to excite and entertain audiences everywhere, but it will also give them plenty to think about.”

Robert Rowlands, an amateur radio enthusiast, overheard the robbers as he randomly tuned into their radio line before hitting the sack one night at his apartment in Wimpole Street, London. He heard two mysterious men arguing about whether the digging or cutting work should be continued all night or not. Those individuals were secretively working on a tunnel that led to the bank basement.

Curious and thrilled, Rowlands called the police to inform about this incident but was instantly shut down by police because of lack of authenticity. He decided to record the burglar’s conversation in a cassette recorder. He then contacted the police for the second time, and this time they believed him and started hunting for the burglars while the break-in was still in-process.

The writers of “The Bank Job” have been struggling to bring the revelations of this popular heist to the screen for almost ten years.

Directed by Roger Donaldson, this movie uncovers the untold truth behind the government’s attempt to suppress the heist’s reporting; it claims that it was because of the contents kept in safety deposit in the vault of the bank that scared the government of revealing the details of investigation to the general public.

The content kept in those vaults included explicit photographs and other proof of sexual encounters between influential personalities of the country. In addition to this, there was also substantial evidence of corruption done by the politicians in the Seventies. But what made the writers Clement and La Frenais so interested in it was the conversation between the burglars recorded by Rowlands.

“The gang had walkie-talkies and look-outs on the rood,” Clement said. “I read about the robbery at the time and the great remark that Ian and I remember was one of the lookouts saying: “I’m off home now, I’m cold and hungry.” A gang member said: “You can’t go now, we’re almost there.” And the reply was: “Money may be your god, but it’s not mine and I’m fucking off.”

The film, however, reveals neither the identity of their secret informer called “deep throat,” nor the identities of personalities involved in said sexual activities.

“The Bank Job” is based on the true events of ‘Walkie Talkie’ heist in 1971. Interestingly, the mastermind behind the heist, Anthony Gavin, was inspired by a short story of Sherlock Holmes “The Red-Headed League,” written by Arthur Conan Doyle, in which Sherlock anticipates for robbers to show up in a bank vault who were digging their way in through the tunnel. The original heist was performed in the same manner.

Gavin and fellow-burglars rented a leather-goods store near the bank, and tunneled their way in during weekends. One of the gang members designed a map, detailing the interior of the bank vault, using his arms and umbrella to measure the length and dimensions.

Initially, the robbers used a jack to cut open the vault floor but failed. So they tried to use a thermal lance and blast their way through.  After breaking in, they cleaned 268 safety deposit boxes.

Check out the movie trailer here:

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Updated February 1, 2021
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