April 22, 2023 -BBC News –Police in Canada are investigating one of the largest gold heists in the country’s history, after more than C$20m ($15m; £12m) of the precious metal and other valuable goods were stolen from Toronto’s airport this week. But it’s not the first heist of its kind in Canada – nor the first involving an airport.
This week, in a brazen pilferage, a “high-value container” disappeared while it was being transported to a cargo holding facility near Canada’s busiest airport.
Authorities say the thieves gained access to the public side of a warehouse near Toronto Pearson International Airport that was unmanned by airport security.
The theft, which is still under investigation, was an isolated and “very rare” incident, police say. While a heist of that magnitude is indeed rare, a look at Canadian history shows it’s not the first.
A mysterious gold bullion robbery that remains unsolved
The Toronto Pearson International Airport has often been used as a hub for gold mined in the province of Ontario, and in September 1952 it was the scene of a mysterious heist.
Back then, Pearson was known by another name: Malton Airport. It is where thieves managed to steal about C$215,000-worth of gold bars (valued at about C$2.5m today).
The gold was stored in a steel mesh wire cage before it was loaded to a Montreal-bound plane. From there, it was destined to be shipped to the UK.
But when the plane arrived in Montreal, there were only four boxes of gold bullion out of 10.
According to articles from the Toronto Star at the time, the robbers were never spotted. No suspect has been publicly named since the heist took place 70 years ago.
The gold “just seemed to vanish”, a police officer told reporters at the time.
“Theft happens all the time at airports,” says Stacey Porter, an independent security consultant who conducts security risk assessments for airports.
Airports are large facilities with lots of potential security vulnerabilities, especially in areas where bags and cargo are kept, he says.
Cameras capture every moment that passengers spend inside airports, but luggage – both commercial airline cargo and larger shipments made by businesses – are often kept in darkened warehouses that may not have much video surveillance.