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John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer had not planned to return to the UK in a Brazilian Airlines plane, economy class, after running out of safe havens to stay in away from British Justice, However, having been slung out of Spain after being described as ‘undesirable’ by the Spanish Police and being refused entry to most of the ‘usual’ criminal boltholes like Panama, Colombia and most of the other South American countries that welcomed rich fugitives with plenty of bribery cash available, he had travelled from Spain to Brazil expecting to be allowed in but the British Police had been aware of his plans and had a quite word with the Brazilian immigration department and he was refused entry. They asked him where he would like to be sent onto and as he had run out of places that might accept a man on the run who was in the top twenty most wanted list sent round by Scotland Yard ‘Goldfinger’ had no alternative but to come home and face the music. Other passengers were not aware who this single traveller was until the plane taxied to a far part of Heathrow and an announcement on the speakers asked ‘would passenger John Palmer please identify himself’. He raised his hand in defeat and was ushered off the aircraft by two airport security men and handed over to Scotland Yard’s DS Ken John.
‘You are John Palmer?’ asked the Detective.
‘Yes I am’, replied a resigned John Palmer.
The Detective then went through Palmer’s addresses and previous addresses just to be sure and then arrested him for ‘conspiracy with others to handle gold stolen in the Brinks-Mat bullion robbery of 1985’
Ironic that Palmer was arrested at the very airport that the gold had been stolen from.
Thus began the long court room drama that ended with Palmer’s acquittal and then his murder.
The big boys behind the Brinks-Mat heist are still free, some after serving a prison term but many of those who were entrusted with keeping the gold and looking after the families whilst the robbers were inside are now dead, (see the Brinks Mat section). All died in suspicious circumstances or as victims of very obvious ‘hits’. With £25million involved you don’t rip off anybody unless you have a death wish. Some tried, they are dead. Including John Palmer.
He started young, one of seven children – selling paraffin off the back of a lorry, having left school at 15 a serial truant who had not learned to read or write. He then progressed and moved on to work as a jewellery dealer in Bristol, a job that some might speculate gave him a taste for precious metals which led to his own scrap metal business, focusing on scrap gold and it is alleged much of it the stolen gold from UK robberies. He had a notice on his desk which read: “Remember the golden rule – he who has the gold makes the rules.” he was also fond of breaking them, going on to become one of Britain’s most prolific criminals. He ran a gold and jewellery dealing company, Scadlynn Ltd, in Bedminster, Bristol with business partners Garth Victor Chappell and Terence Edward James Patch. Palmer and Chappell had been arrested in 1980 when they worked together selling furniture. The two men were charged with obtaining credit on furniture by providing false references, with Palmer receiving a six-month suspended prison sentence.
But it was for his involvement in the 1983 Brink’s-Mat robbery at Heathrow Airport that he became infamous and which earned him his nickname.
More than £25m worth of gold was stolen in what was considered at the time as the biggest robbery to have taken place in the UK.
Mr Palmer, was said to have melted the gold down in his back garden smelter.
However, he denied knowing it was stolen and was acquitted in 1987, blowing kisses to the jury from the dock when the verdict was delivered. Chappell and Patch of Scadlynn Ltd were arrested for their involvement in melting down £26 million worth of gold from the robbery to try to pass it off as legitimate. Two days after armed robbers Brian Robinson and Micky McAvoy were jailed, Chappell withdrew £348,000 from the company’s accounts. Throughout their trial, a total of £1.1 million had been withdrawn. It was revealed that the company had been processing millions of pounds’ worth of gold, but claimed it was gold they had purchased themselves. The company’s books stated that they were selling the melted gold for virtually the same amount as they had purchased it for—which didn’t make sense, unless the records were false. Confiscated documents also showed that the company had been evading tax, and were ordered for pay £80,000 in unpaid tax. Palmer evaded arrest at the time, after fleeing to Tenerife with his family just days prior to his company being raided and its directors arrested. His family returned to England, whilst he sold his remaining assets back home and set up a timeshare business at Island Village, near Playa de las Américas. After his return on the Brazilian Aircraft Palmer admitting to melting down gold bars from the robbery in his garden, he was acquitted during the trial in 1987 after claiming that he wasn’t aware they were stolen. Chappell was sentenced to ten years in the earlier trial.
Worth around £500m in today’s prices, most of the gold has never been recovered and the case remains open.
In the decade that followed, he seemingly managed to stay out of trouble, but it was not the case behind the scenes.
He was secretly building his massive timeshare scam in Tenerife which propelled him to 105th on the Sunday Times Rich List, a position he shared with the Queen. His criminal activities netted him an estimated fortune of £300m, which he used to buy a mansion, a French chateau with its own golf course, a jet, two helicopters, a classic car collection and a yacht called the Brave Goose of Essex.
But Mr Palmer knew he was playing a risky game having left about 20,000 time share victims out of pocket, and he took to wearing body armour underneath his designer suits. He was also in direct competition with the Italian mafia on the Canaries who also ran Time Share scams in the islands and were getting very agitated with the bad publicity his empire was bringing down on the scams and the gullible public holidaymakers were getting wise.
So justice eventually caught up with him and he was extradited back to the UK and he was jailed for eight years in 2001 for the Spanish scam.
Mr Palmer represented himself – his defence being he was so rich he did not need to be involved with the fraud. In 2001, he defended himself after sacking his legal team in one of the longest fraud trials in British legal history. He was found guilty “of masterminding the largest timeshare fraud on record” and jailed for eight years. It is reported that he swindled 20,000 people out of £30 million, but attempts by the Crown to confiscate this profit were later stopped in a court hearing. Sentenced to 8 years, he served just over half of this term. His fortune at the time of his conviction was estimated at about £300 million, but Palmer was declared bankrupt in 2005 with debts of £3.9m.
In 2007, he was arrested again on charges including fraud. Reportedly, he had been able to continue his criminal activities during his previous incarceration, following his 2001 conviction. In 2009, after two years without charge in a high security Spanish jail, he was released on bail, but was required to report to court authorities every two weeks.
In 2015, it was alleged by The Times from leaked Operation Tiberius files, that Palmer was protected from arrest and investigation by a clique of high-ranking corrupt Metropolitan Police officers. Palmer’s companions were reportedly once detained in possession of a silenced Uzi submachine gun and 380 rounds of ammunition.
Roy Ramm, ex-commander of specialist operations at the Metropolitan Police, testified against him during the trial and describes him as “a strange man”, who was well aware of the number of enemies he had accrued over the years.
“He was quite an arrogant man, which led him to dismissing his barrister,” he said.
John Palmer was murdered on 24 June 2015 at the age of 64 in his gated home of South Weald, near Brentwood, Essex by gunshot wounds to the chest. Palmer had been shot six times probably by a professional assassin using an 8mm .32 calibre pistol fitted with a silencer. The fact he had been shot 6 times was only revealed during a post-mortem as he had recently had open-heart surgery which the wounds were mistaken for. It was later revealed that at the time of his death, Palmer faced charges in Spain for fraud, firearm possession and money laundering. It was only after his death that it was revealed that in addition to his activities in Spain, Palmer also opened the first Russian timeshare company in the 1990s. It was suggested that he had Soviet secret service connections, but lost the Russian business to rivals.
According to a special documentary broadcast by the BBC presented by broadcaster Roger Cook reveals that since 1999 police had run an intelligence operation on Palmer from the RAF Spadeadam base in Cumbria. Palmer was under electronic surveillance by a secret police intelligence unit for 16 years until his assassination by a hitman in 2015, according to the special BBC television investigation the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), now the National Crime Agency had gathered intelligence on Palmer in an operation codenamed Alpine because of concerns of corruption in the Metropolitan police.
Following his death, it was revealed Palmer’s partner Christina Ketley remained under police surveillance following reports from Spanish law enforcement agencies that she played a “predominant role” in his criminal empire. Ketley and fellow mistress Saskia Mundinger, who both had children with Palmer, demanded payouts from him in 2005 to “keep them in the lifestyle they became accustomed to”. He also had two daughters with his wife Marnie.
On 4 February 2017, a 50-year-old man was questioned on suspicion of Palmer’s murder. Police said they had questioned the man who was originally from Tyneside although currently living in southern Spain. The man was not arrested but volunteered to be interviewed at a police station in the UK. The force did not specify at which police station he was interviewed. His family insists he had turned his life around by the time of his death, but he was about to stand trial and some were said to be concerned about what he would say in court. Another theory is he was a police informant, which would have worried many in the underworld. Officers say his colourful past finally caught up with him in the form of a professional hit man.
Detective Chief Inspector Stephen Jennings, who is leading the investigation into the murder, said a number of lines of inquiry were focusing on Mr Palmer’s “lifestyle of criminality”.
But he added: “We are not even close in terms of finishing this inquiry.”
Mr Jennings said: “Because of Mr Palmer’s lifestyle and previous involvement in criminality, this has been a wide ranging and extensive investigation.”
He added: “A lot of it is based on his lifestyle. The Brinks Mat robbery 1983 was part of this, see that section on here. He was arrested and suspicion of smelting gold, he was never convicted of that.
“In 2001 he was convicted of a timeshare fraud which had 16,000 potential and losses in excess of £33 million. He was sentenced to eight years in prison, so that is 16,000 potential motives.”
Mr Jennings said that at the time of his death Mr Palmer was also being investigated by the Spanish authorities in connection with another alleged property fraud scheme and was due to stand trial in Madrid.
He said police were also investigating possible links with the Hatton Garden Heist ( see the section on this ), Britain’s biggest ever burglary, of which at least £10 million in cash, jewellery and other valuables, remain outstanding.
He told the inquest: “We know he was associated with some of the individuals convicted of that crime.”
A reward to help catch the killer has been doubled to £100,000 by his family.

The story of John Palmer goes on.

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