Tick Tick Boom
January 29, 2015 10:03 AM   Subscribe

Along the western coast of England, under a half-moon hidden by clouds, a dark Audi sports car with fabricated plates followed an empty road toward a Barclays bank. Inside were five men, dressed all in black, and their gear: crowbars, power tools, coils of flexible tubing, and two large tanks of explosive gas. It was 1:51 a.m. The job would take just under seven minutes.
posted by Chrysostom (39 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is why you install a Faraday cage in your getaway vehicle.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:14 AM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:19 AM on January 29, 2015 [19 favorites]


You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!

O.K., now do it like Batman-era Michael Caine.
posted by yoink at 10:22 AM on January 29, 2015 [20 favorites]


You're only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:24 AM on January 29, 2015 [20 favorites]


Think ya used enough dynamite there, Butch?
posted by marxchivist at 10:26 AM on January 29, 2015 [6 favorites]


Those guys were proof that movies and the internet can indeed give an effective practical education.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 10:30 AM on January 29, 2015


'If you’re looking for people to join your insanely dangerous and lucrative bombing spree, there are worse places to recruit than Liverpool.' Words to live by.
posted by Mocata at 10:32 AM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Facinating story. I live about 3 miles from Culcheth which is where one of the banks they robbed is located. I didn't hear about that when it happened but it does explain a conversation about a year ago.

I was in a local bank which was badly damaged at the front and commented that someone had made a right mess of their building. The cashier rolled her eyes and said (with shocking frankness, hence me remembering it) -

"Fucking amateurs. They stole a Yaris[1] and tried to ram raid the cash machine. That was never going to work, you need something like a Landcruiser[2] at least. And anyway, its all gas attacks these days... ram raiding... Christ" (and more eye rolling)

The "gas attack" threw me at the time because I thought she was suggesting they gassed the bank to knock the staff out when the safe was open, which was a rather disturbing idea given the lackadaisical way she'd mentioned it!

Interesting article. Thanks.

[1] A very small, light and low power car.
[2] a very large, heavy and high power car.
posted by samworm at 10:34 AM on January 29, 2015 [8 favorites]


Good to know I have options if I forget my pin.
posted by stltony at 10:44 AM on January 29, 2015 [7 favorites]


It's interesting, but it seems like they probably have a small window of opportunity before the banks close off this particular avenue of attack.

It wouldn't be hard at all to put an explosive-gas sensor inside the ATM and wire it to the bank's alarm. Both acetylene gas and hydrocarbon gas (propane, butane, etc.) sensors are totally standard, off-the-shelf items. They exist, in fact, all wired up in little sensor packages ready to connect to your building security fire protection system, because they're very common in industrial environments. The better ones can actually discriminate between a simple leak of explosive gas, such as you'd get if a gas main were leaking and slowly filling the room, and an explosive fuel-oxygen mixture.

I'm surprised that the banks haven't done that already. I guess they are still in the "fuck it, we'll just let the insurance companies pay out" stage of corporate grief,* and it won't be until the insurance companies tell them that their policies won't be renewed without explosive-gas detectors that they'll have to do something about it.

* I'm reminded of a line from one of cstross' books: "The five stages of bureaucratic grieving are: denial, anger, committee meetings, scapegoating, and cover-up."
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:46 AM on January 29, 2015 [25 favorites]


The weapon of choice for the current gang doing the cashpoints around here is a JCB digger (It's all fun and games until, like a previous gang, the run someone over and kill them near the quarry they nicked it from)
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:47 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


"An hour after police arrived, a fifth man leapt out of a window 12 feet up with £140 and four cell phones, before being sprayed with tear gas and arrested."

Lucky he wasn't in Texas; burst out of a house here surrounded by police and you're getting sprayed...with bullets. Awesome graphics in that article.
posted by resurrexit at 10:50 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


It wouldn't be hard at all to put an explosive-gas sensor inside the ATM and wire it to the bank's alarm.

I would think since they first need to pry the front off the machine with a crow bar, the alarm's likely been triggered.
posted by leotrotsky at 10:51 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


"The five stages of bureaucratic grieving are: denial, anger, committee meetings, scapegoating, and cover-up."

Brilliant!
posted by resurrexit at 10:51 AM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Fucking amateurs. They stole a Yaris[1] and tried to ram raid the cash machine. That was never going to work, you need something like a Landcruiser[2] at least. And anyway, its all gas attacks these days... ram raiding... Christ" (and more eye rolling)

Silly cashier. Everyone knows the Hilux is fucking unbreakable.
posted by Talez at 10:54 AM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


The defensive engineer in me says they should just add a Glow Plug to ATM's and see how far these criminals get with their explosive gas...
posted by nickggully at 10:55 AM on January 29, 2015 [11 favorites]


Why not just make ATMs to be not-gastight?
posted by Thing at 11:04 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


These guys seem pretty professional, but I can think of a few ways they could up their game.

As mentioned upthread, be aware of the potential for tracking devices, so use a Faraday cage for the loot. Set up a bigger cage elsewhere, where you can sort through the loot and disable trackers.

Also, while they did OK at protecting their identities, they gave away a lot of their M.O. because they didn't disable the surveillance. The police knew how many people were involved in each incident, how they attacked the ATM, also the make and model of vehicles used in each incident. If they had really been on point, all the police would know is that at least one guy with a paintball gun showed up shortly before the bank got robbed.
posted by rustcrumb at 11:11 AM on January 29, 2015 [4 favorites]


There was DNA recovered at various scenes, CCTV footage from inside the banks (they would force their way inside after the explosion) not to mention cell-tower and massive country-wide license plate tracking. Lots of evidence gathered from sources that couldn't be jammed with a paintball.
posted by now i'm piste at 11:34 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Why not just make ATMs to be not-gastight?

Not a Pink Floyd listener, I take it?
posted by yoink at 11:36 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


This would make an excellent episode of the Sweeney.
posted by Devonian at 11:36 AM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


The police knew how many people were involved in each incident, how they attacked the ATM, also the make and model of vehicles used in each incident

One of the dumbs is that they apparently hung onto the fake license plates they had made and reused them. When the police nabbed them, they were quickly able to track the car over multiple robberies.

Even when crooks get a bit of clever, crooks are dumb. Then again, as Slippery Jim DiGriz would tell you, they were dumb the moment they did it a second time. That builds patterns. Police investigations *love* patterns.

Why not just make ATMs to be not-gastight?

They're not freely passing air, but they're not gas tight, nor do they need to be for this to work. Indeed, if they were gas tight, this would be harder to do, because you'd have problems displacing the air already inside the safe with the oxyacetylene mixture.

And, yes, oxyacetylene is a very effective explosive once you get the concentration up high enough. I'm guessing it's the most effective explosive that's openly available. It's also the highest temp flame you can create with stuff you can afford to let the world have, the only two hotter are oxydicyanoacetlene and oxycyanogen, and those are very nasty gases that are just short of chemical weaponry. So, it's too useful

The defensive engineer in me says they should just add a Glow Plug to ATM's

Heh. Couple it to a gas detector and it's completely safe, right?

If I remember correctly, acetylene is lighter than air. Maybe the simplest answer is a chimney, with a lot of grills to make sure they can't just go that way.
posted by eriko at 12:27 PM on January 29, 2015 [2 favorites]


Maybe the simplest answer is a chimney

What if you had a little fan creating a constant pressure-differential. Any gas would just blow straight out?

Mind you, it would be interesting to calculate the total cost of retrofitting all existing ATMs with any kind of defensive redesign vs. the total losses from this method of robbery; I suspect it remains cheaper just to live with the robberies.
posted by yoink at 12:42 PM on January 29, 2015


And, yes, oxyacetylene is a very effective explosive once you get the concentration up high enough.
posted by eriko at 3:27 PM

Just curious, but what sort of concentration are we talking about here? Also, how would one be able to measure this from a safe distance? Again, just wondering! Thanks!
posted by orme at 2:03 PM on January 29, 2015 [1 favorite]


Then again, as Slippery Jim DiGriz would tell you

Groddammit now I need to go pour out a little for Harry Harrison. RIP buddy, you were delicious.
posted by phearlez at 2:35 PM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


From stories told to me in welding class, acetylene is apparently heavier than air.
posted by inparticularity at 2:58 PM on January 29, 2015


Beddoes took a picture of his speedometer touching 191 miles per hour

I thought this was a misprint or an exaggeration, so I looked up Audi speeds. Good grief! Those things are fast! The 2014 RS6 has a listed top speed of 193 MPH. 0 - 62 in 3.5 seconds. At $190000 a bit out of my budget, though.
posted by CCBC at 4:34 PM on January 29, 2015


Those guys were proof that movies and the internet can indeed give an effective practical education.

Right? After this, I'm fairly confident that I could crack an ATM the same way they did, thanks to the detailed instructions. I'm further emboldened by the fact that I now know the primary strategy they would employ to find me, so I could make sure I'm eliminating those sources of evidence from the outset as well.

Thank you internet, for once again making me a better hypothetical criminal!
posted by quin at 4:56 PM on January 29, 2015 [3 favorites]


This is a great article, but the sentence that does it for me is:

Like everyone here, Beddoes spoke Scouse, the distinctive Liverpudlian dialect that encodes -th and other end-of-word sounds into indistinct gargles.


GARGLE THIS LAh!
posted by lalochezia at 6:31 PM on January 29, 2015


What if you had a little fan creating a constant pressure-differential. Any gas would just blow straight out?

That works for me, and I don't think it would be all that expensive to install (I'm not a bank, either). Hook it to your flammable gas detector and watch those villains knock themselves out!

acetylene is apparently heavier than air

Nowadays we have material safety data sheets for everything. Here's one for acetylene. It shows the density of gases, so you can figure out if it's a hazard because it rises, or a hazard because it sinks.

It also shows the gas's flammable limits, which are the percentages in air when there's not enough gas to burn (lower limit), and when there's too much gas and not enough oxygen to burn (upper limit). The limits for acetylene are 2.5% (!) and 100% (!!). Which means that almost any release of acetylene will burn, and for a large range in the middle you'll get a nice explosion. Have you ever played with acetylene? It's insane! (We used to use acetylene lamps for caving...)

See? If you know the hazards, you can work safely with almost any material.
posted by sneebler at 6:50 PM on January 29, 2015


Hmm. Acetylene bottles. Enclosed car. It's not like that could ever end badly.
posted by scruss at 6:51 PM on January 29, 2015


Just curious, but what sort of concentration are we talking about here?

Pure acetylene (which exists only as a gas at 1atm) over 15psig, under any form of shock, spontaneously decomposes in a very large bang to Hydrogen and Carbon.

Mixed with Oxygen, you then add on the Hydrogen-Oxygen and Carbon-Oxygen reactions. It's an impressive bang when you set off oxyacetylene. Heck, it's unstable enough that storing pure acetylene at 2psi will cause it to detonate. Tanks of "acetylene" are actually tanks full of a cement like compound called agamassen, which is saturated with acetone, which the acetylene is dissolved in.

In terms of oxyacetylene, anything between 3% and 100% in air (well, in place of air in the case of 100%) detonates. The guy who figured out how to store acetylene, Gustaf Dalén, was blinded by an acetylene explosion. His work with the stuff earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics -- yes, Physics, though I cannot argue with him being Nobel worthy, he should have been given the Chemistry prize. So it goes.
posted by eriko at 9:20 PM on January 29, 2015


One of the dumbs is that they apparently hung onto the fake license plates they had made and reused them

Even better, their phones had selfies with the tools and cash.
posted by ryanrs at 11:00 PM on January 29, 2015


I feel like the biggest dumb thing is doing it many times. Do it a few times, then launder that payday into some innocent-looking investments. Upgrade your life some then go straight while you pursue your passion.

Of course, if your passion is "performing totally rad bank heists" then there may be a problem with that plan.
posted by egypturnash at 11:57 PM on January 29, 2015


Is there a legitimate reason this isn't a Jason Statham movie yet? because this sounds like the plot to a fucking awesome JS movie. It has all the right plot points. Explosions, car chases, more explosions, more car chases. Hell, throw in some bits of him with the kid and his wife/girlfriend and bam, movie.

The part with the front of the atm flying open when the explosion goes off is just so comically perfect. Imagine that, then it cuts to him going "oops".

How is that not already a thing?

What if you had a little fan creating a constant pressure-differential. Any gas would just blow straight out?

See i'm really confused, because i thought they worked this way? most of the time i get cash at an in-wall atm, the little money slot opens and hot air blows out. I always assumed there was a fan/HVAC system involved forcing cool-ish air in to the thing to cool the computer/display/all the electronics.

Weird. Maybe it's just not enough airflow? Is the air just recycled in the little ATM room? why doesn't the whole room blow up then? wut?
posted by emptythought at 3:58 AM on January 30, 2015


Is there a legitimate reason this isn't a Jason Statham movie yet?

He can't do a Scouse accent.

N.B. "Scouse" might be redundant in that sentence.
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 4:17 AM on January 30, 2015


I thought this was going to be about Stevie Wonder's fall tour.
posted by ssmug at 5:46 AM on January 30, 2015


plofkraak
posted by exogenous at 1:08 PM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yes, this post is missing the plofkraak tag.

(plofkraak)
posted by filthy light thief at 2:36 PM on February 5, 2015


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