The Seven Stages of Highly Effective Robbery
The following is taken from a speech given at the annual fundraiser dinner held by the Association of Regulated Robbers, Gang masters and Hoodlums, a very select group of criminals who meet in secret to provide support for those in their industry, by the famous and mysterious Madame X.
May I offer my thanks to the organisers of this meeting for the invitation to address all of you this evening? I always find it a pleasure to meet and talk with those who know the associates who work under me, and this group do an excellent job of supporting the families of those who are unable to continue in our chosen profession. I thank you and applaud you for all of your efforts, and I invite all of you to join me in doing so.
Now, I have been asked to address you on the subject of effective robbery, and I do believe the best way to do so is to explain what I believe to be the seven stages of an effective robbery. I will illustrate this, if I may, with a description of a recent piece of work undertaken by me and my associates. If I do not mention names, it is because I respect the privacy of those who have worked on this, but you will recognise the case from recent coverage in various media outlets.
The seven stages are: - Planning; Preparation; Choosing your associates; Equipping those teams; Execution of the plan; Clearing up; and Follow up. Allow me to consider each of those, both in general and specific terms.
The first thing that has to be realised is that it takes time and patience, both to select a particular target and also in determining the best way to approach it. As you will know, I undertake a very few tasks each year, but each of those is planned down to the most minute detail, and weeks, even sometimes months of assessment need to be carried out. It is vitally important that a complete picture is drawn up, both of the target and of those who may for whatever reason be involved.
By planning I am not talking so much about the actual execution of the task – I will discuss that in the next section. I mean information gathering, fact ascertainment, and getting the full background that allows you to anticipate possible difficulties. You cannot, I believe, contemplate beginning to work out how a task is to be accomplished before you learn as much as possible about it.
To illustrate, let us consider what I will refer to as case X. I had been informed that, at various points in time, a quantity of valuable coins were deposited at a certain storage facility prior to distribution to dealers. It was apparently the case that the dealer who was the facilitator for these transactions felt this was a safe way to perform the transfer, as there was no security “flags” to alert anyone – just a man going to and from his storage area. I have to say that, when I heard of this arrangement from a trusted colleague, I applauded the gentleman’s ingenuity. At the same time, however, it could prove too god an opportunity to pass on if it arose.
I therefore paid the colleague, who occasionally gives me information on possible targets who are outside his capabilities, and started to execute the planning phase. Firstly, I planted one of my associates in his firm, to provide inside information on possible dates when large transactions were likely to take place. At the same time, one of my teams began to covertly ascertain the family life of the target, both by observation and by the planting of sophisticated monitoring equipment in the house while there was no-one present. The most successful break-in, if I may be permitted to use the phrase, is one where you have no idea it has happened, and my teams are highly professional in that aspect.
Over a period of three months, we continued to gather information until we had a complete log of the pattern of life not just of our target, but his family as well. My contact in the firm informed me that deliveries seemed to be taking place at regular intervals, apparently always on a Friday morning, as he left work early on certain Fridays at regular intervals with an extra bag.
As for his family, he was married with two daughters, one seventeen years old and one twenty years old, and employed a full time housekeeper at his detached house, situated behind gated walls in a suburb. His wife worked as well at a part time teaching post, but took every Friday off, and had a regular appointment at a local hairdresser. The older daughter worked at a local agency as a secretary, while the younger daughter was still at school. The older daughter in particular was not required to work on Friday afternoons, which provided an unexpected opportunity.
So we built up a full picture of their lifestyle and working practices. Now we had done the planning, we awaited notice to begin out next phase.
Once planning has taken place, then preparation can begin in a smooth and efficient way. By preparation, I mean the actual setting out of how a particular task should be carried out, so that a step-by-step plan is available for learning by those who are selected to take part. Once you know everything, setting out what to do on the day becomes so much easier, and then the selection process can begin.
All too often I have seen our colleagues fail because they confuse the planning phase with the preparation phase. This leads to them executing plans that have not been fully thought through, leading to failure and possible capture. In fact, I am sure that everyone here, including me, has made that mistake at some time or other. I made it once, and I have made sure never to make it again. Learn from your mistakes is a good maxim to have.
For case X, we soon ascertained through my contact at the firm that a delivery was expected in about two weeks, which gave us time to begin to prepare. As a first step, I arranged for one of the assistants at the hairdresser visited by the wife of the target to win a substantial prize, creating a vacancy that was filled by one of my group. A small price to pay given the prize we were playing for.
We then considered both the family life and the security, and realised that the best way to approach this task would be to use a “divide and conquer” strategy. We would make sure that the wife and daughters of our target were secured and held hostage, so that the target could be “persuaded” to do as we ask. That would be accomplished by taking each in turn, and bringing them together in time for the target to be made fully aware of the situation they were in. This would also require the unfortunate involvement of both the housekeeper and the hairdresser, but collateral victims do occur in this business.
Essentially, we drew up a timetable for the day of the task, with times and plans by the minute. I will explain that in more detail when we discuss the execution phase. Having laid those plans, it comes to the next and potentially crucial phase.
The best of plans can and will fail if you do not ensure you have the right people on hand to execute your plan. It is so vitally important that this is understood that I will say it again – the best of plans can be ruined by one idiot making a mistake.
Over time, you will all have made business relationships with people you have trusted. So it is with me – I have trained and made agreements with the best that I can find. Yes, I do mostly employ women, but the occasional male does work for me. A rarity, but some do meet my exacting standards.
Nevertheless, I can and will select only those staff that I feel will execute the task properly. For that privilege, I pay and reward well, but I expect absolute loyalty and no side deals for that.
For the case we are considering, I knew that three teams of associates would be required – one for the house, one for the hairdresser and one for the collection of the older daughter. I therefore contacted three of my most trusted associates, and discussed the initial plans with them. Some discussion took place on what the individual teams should be composed of took place, but they have worked me for long enough to know that I plan and prepare carefully enough to change little.
They in turn took on the responsibility of making sure they were ready for their part, as we shall now discuss.
To me, equipping to undertake a task consists of three parts – recruitment, rehearsal and supplies.
I trust my immediate associates to recruit their teams from those that they trust. They, in turn, make it very clear to them that they follow the plan exactly, or else face my displeasure – and that can be very severe. In return, they will be handsomely compensated, and stand a greater chance of employment in future work for me. Indeed, one or two have even graduated to become one of my close associates.
By rehearsal, I insist that they know the part they play in the task to the letter or minute, and that dry runs are an important part of the equipping of teams. Ensuring they can keep to timetables, have contingency plans in place for emergencies, and know what they are doing at any time is vitally important.
By supplies, I mean that we ensure the teams have everything they need to execute the plan, both in terms of physical supply and also in logistical support. In this, I have the invaluable help of my most trusted associate, Penelope, who is here with me tonight, and I want to take the opportunity to publicly acknowledge to you her skilled and subtle input to my work. Please join me in thanking her now for her work and devotion to duty.
So how did we equip for case X? Let us consider each team in turn.
For the team assigned to the hairdresser, my associate first liaised with the person that I had planted in the business, to ascertain who else may be in the salon at the time and the schedule the hairdresser followed. As a result of this, she knew that there would be no other staff in on any Friday morning, and more importantly that the hairdresser lived alone “above the shop”. It was therefore arranged for Penelope to supply a car to the associate, as well as any physical materials she felt she would require, and that the two would be able to perform that stage of the plan alone.
For the team assigned to the daughter, my associate felt a team of three would be required. The older daughter always had lunch at a local café, and taking care of her on that time would be the most suitable way to proceed. She therefore selected two of her own contacts to work with her on a “pick up” operation. A fourth person was also assigned to track the younger daughter as she returned home from school, as she was to be taken within the confines of her own house.
The biggest team was required for the house, as well as Penelope who would coordinate the task from there. A van was supplied for the team of four assigned to there, as well as sufficient supplies to keep a number of people from raising the alarm at any time.
All that we needed now was the signal to proceed.
We had twenty-four hours notice of the task go ahead, which we received on a particular Thursday recently. If the first four phases have worked well, then all should flow smoothly, or if new things arise we adapt quickly to deal with them.
You will have, of course, read in the press the various accounts of those who were involved in the events of that day, but in return for the inconvenience suffered by five women and one man, as well as one of my own team, the proceeds were quite considerable and an impressive return on the investment required – a return that, I may say, was substantially larger both that that reported in the press and my own expectations.
As you will also have ascertained, we added to the planned haul takings from both the hairdresser and the house, which while smaller by comparison did help to meet expenses.
I do not intend to dwell too long on this stage here, but instead will move to the last two stages that I have mentioned.
As I commented earlier, the most successful operations are those where no-one knows a hit has taken place for some time. It is therefore vitally important that all traces of your visit are removed, at least as much as is humanly possible without compromising the task. All my associates wear soft gloves over latex ones, for example, to stop readable fingerprints being left behind, and they speak as little as possible in a different tone or pitch from their usual voice.
Where it is unavoidable to take people as collateral victims, however, you do what you can to minimise the risk of complications before the task is completed.
In case X, there were a number of stages to the clear up. Firstly, there was the hairdressing salon. You will recall that the owner was in the upstairs flat, unable to speak, see or hear. We had estimated, however, that by the early afternoon she should have managed to free herself.
Such was indeed the case, and by approximately 3.30 pm she somehow managed to free her hands from their bindings, and wriggle her arms round so that she could loosen the rest of her bonds. By the time she had freed herself, it was approximately 4.30, and going down to the shop she was greeted by the sight of her assistant bound and gagged on the floor, and the safe emptied.
The emptying of the safe, naturally, was accomplished by my associate while waiting for the wife of the target to arrive. You also can see now why we left one of my staff behind – to complete the illusion that this hairdresser was the victim of two robbers, who had overpowered her assistant when she arrived for work and made off with the takings.
My associate quit her job on the spot, saying she never wanted to experience something like that again. Naturally, this protected both the ruse of the robbery and her part in affairs. After all, as far as the salon owner was concerned, the shop had been closed all day, and by the time the truth had become clear my associate had disappeared into – well, if you will forgive the phrase, thin air.
Now, what of the house and the various people being held there? It was important to maintain the illusion that they were all in different places as much as possible, given the various ways they had been collected. Indeed, the only person who had an idea that the house was the centre of operations was the housekeeper, and she was in no position to do anything beyond count how many times the gates were opened.
As you will have seen in the press in the days that followed, only when all four of the women in the house had managed to free themselves or be freed did they realise that their various predicaments were all connected in one grand affair.
During this time, the target has been taken to the holding facility by one of my male associates and made to hand over the items that he took delivery of. As he knew his family were been held hostage, he did as he was asked, but just in case we had planted the same associate as a security guard at the facility – granting egress for him both to the facility and more crucially to the CCTV system to ensure that we saw if he tried any – heroic measures. After the retrieval of our primary target, he was blindfolded and driven to a remote location, where he was forcibly ejected from the car.
I have not, however, completed my assessment of the effective stages, as there is still one more to go.
We must learn from the work we undertake, both the good and the bad aspects. Effective de-briefing is an essential part of our work, as is practise and, of course, reward.
I pay my staff well if they do their work well – it is a simple maxim that I always follow.
In this case, the full debrief took the whole of that night. Teams were recompensed handsomely for their work, and the lessons learned compiled for application in later tasks. Special recompense was given to the two who had been planted in the target’s office and in the hairdresser’s salon, as they underwent unusually strenuous work. A happy team is a contented team, and a contented team will work for you again.
For some initial layout and costs, the recoup was large, as you will have seen from the reports in the press. Even now, the items taken are on their way to private collectors, who pay handsomely for these and other trinkets.
So, my fellow colleagues and workers, please listen to the seven stages that I have outlined here, and consider how they could be applied to your respective lines of work. I hope that you have as much success as I have in mine, and that you prosper in all that you do.
Gentlemen, Ladies, I thank you again for the invitation and the honour of addressing you. If I may take the liberty, please join me in raising your glasses in a toast to the work of AARGH in this world of ours.
Madame X was greeted by a standing ovation, both for the speech and for the audacity of her foresight and planning. All present agreed she was an inspiration to them in their work, and in return Madame X made a substantial donation to the coffers of AARGH.