The notorious criminal John “Goldfinger” Palmer, shot dead outside his Essex home in June last year, could have been the victim of a professional hitman because of suspected links to the Hatton Garden jewellery heist less than three months earlier, police said after five men were jailed for their roles in the £14m raid.
Palmer, 65, whose notoriety was ensured by his role in melting down gold bars from the £26m Brink’s-Mat bullion robbery in 1983, was shot in the chest outside his Essex mansion. Despite the infamy of a man once said to have been worth £300m, police failed to notice that he had been shot until a post mortem examination revealed days later what had happened. Nobody has been brought to justice for his killing.
Detectives said the killing could have been linked to the Hatton Garden burglary amid speculation that underworld figures believed Palmer had been involved in the raid. One of the ringleaders of the Hatton Garden job, Brian Reader, was also convicted of laundering the proceeds of the Brink’s-Mat raid.
"We believe the killer entered the garden over the fence, close to where he was, and made his way to where Mr Palmer was burning the rubbish before shooting him," Essex Police said, according to the BBC.
"We do not know at this time whether a silencer was used or not but no modifications had been made to the bullets.
"The murder bears all the hallmarks of a professional hit."
One rumour suggested that Palmer rented a box at the safe deposit centre that held incriminating material about the Adams family, a rival criminal group based in north London, which may have been seized by the raiders.
“We cannot comment on the truth of that but we believe people in the criminal underworld thought there was a connection and that would give them a motive,” an Essex Police spokesman said.
Another theory being investigated by police was that Palmer, convicted of a huge timeshare fraud, was killed because of fears about what he might say at an upcoming trial in Spain.
The potential link between the murder and Hatton Garden came on 9 March as three of the ringleaders each received seven-year jail terms for their role in what the judge described as a crime “in a class of its own” in terms of scale and planning.
Judge Christopher Kinch told the men: “It’s clear that the burglary at the heart of this case stands in a class of its own in scale of ambition, detail of planning, level of preparation, the organisation of the team to carry it out and in terms of the value of the property stolen.”
John “Kenny” Collins, 75, Danny Jones, 61, and Terry Perkins, 67, will serve half of their terms in prison before they are released on licence. Jones and Perkins mouthed “thank you” to the judge as they were sentenced.
Two men who played lesser roles but were convicted after a trial were jailed for seven and six years. A sixth man, plumber Hugh Doyle, walked free from court after being given a suspended sentence for his role in helping to hide the loot.
The gang ransacked 73 deposit boxes at Hatton Garden Safety Deposit after drilling through the vault wall over the Easter weekend last year. They escaped with money, jewels and other valuables worth an estimated £14m, with two-thirds of that still unaccounted for.
Another burglar, known only as Basil, remains at large. Police have offered a £20,000 reward for his capture.