QLD’s big bank heists: Five most notorious armed robberies
As technology advances and parts of the world push forward to an increasingly cashless society, bank robberies and lucrative armed hold ups in Australia have largely become a thing of the past.
Following this week's fresh appeal for information in relation to the 1999 Browns Plains bank robbery that nearly cost one police officer his life, News Corp has compiled a list of the state's most notorious armed holdups, detailing the terrifying circumstances and the often armed and very brazen criminals behind them.
December 24, 1993: Queensland's biggest ever bank heist
The Christmas Eve robbery of 1993 has gone down as the most lucrative bank robbery in the Sunshine State's history.
Committed by one of Australia's most notorious criminals, Brenden James Abbott, or 'the Postcard Bandit' as he was infamously nicknamed, the Commonwealth Bank in the Pacific Fair Shopping Centre at Broadbeach on the Gold Coast was robbed out of $781,251.
About 9am on Christmas Eve, an armed Abbott and at least two other offenders forced their way into the locked bank only moments after the bank manager spotted a calm Abbott sitting outside, where it's understood the pair spoke briefly about the weather.
Unbeknown to the branch manager, Abbott had overnight tampered with the fire exit at the back of the bank, unscrewing then regluing the screws in place to give the appearance of a secured door handle.
This would become Abbott's entry point and the start of his exceptionally lucrative payday.
According to reports, he burst into the bank wearing a cap and sunglasses, while another man was disguised in a fake beard and sunglasses.
The third person stationed himself outside, where he was ordered to keep watch and communicate with Abbott via a two-way radio and headpiece.
According to recounts of those inside the bank, a confident Abbott turned into a fumbling, frustrated mess not long after making his way into the bank, after he realised he had misplaced his radio, and had no communication to the outside world.
According to book, The Big Heist by Derek Pedley, Abbott reportedly asked the bank staff, who were held hostage inside the bank, about the whereabouts of the two-way receiver.
When no-one replied, an increasingly angry Abbott is said to have made threats with his gun, before a staff member pointed to the object on the ground.
Reconnecting his earpiece, he asked the person on the other end, "All clear?"
"All clear,'' the reply cracked back.
Abbott and his accomplices managed to stuff three quarters of a million dollars into a duffel bag before they left the bank.
No getaway car was ever spotted.
Throughout his life of criminality, Abbott is reported to have stolen near $5 million from a spate of bank heists throughout the country.
He also managed to escape from prison twice, however today remains behind bars in Western Australia, where he will become eligible for parole in July 2026.
His nickname, 'The Postcard Bandit' was created after rumours emerged he would send postcards of his whereabouts to his attempted captors while living life on the run.
This accusation was later debunked by his lawyer, who claimed it was a ploy made by police.
September 22 1981: A morning commute turned to chaos
Now an old man thought to be living somewhere in the Sunshine State, Russell Cox, who was best known as 'Mad Dog,' was once responsible for the state's second-biggest money heist.
At the Edward Street Brisbane Railway Centre in the CBD, Cox and a man by the name of Raymond John Denning would wait with the morning crowd in the busy transit foyer for an armoured truck.
It's said that Cox, now 70, was at the time one of the most intelligent gangsters in Australia's criminal history.
On the morning of September 22, 1981, an armed Cox. wearing an earpiece thought to be connected to a police radio, waited for armoured guards to stack four containers of money totalling $327,000 onto the back of a trolley.
With precise timing, both Cox and Denning are said to have withdrawn their guns and yelled at passers by to get on the floor.
"This is a stick up," the pair are reported to have shouted.
One of the men grabbed the money while another pointed his gun at the guards before stealing a guard's pistol and radio.
The pair managed to run to their stolen getaway vehicle, which had been pre-parked nearby and was donning Commonwealth Government number plates.
On the way out, the men reportedly warned ticket collectors to "keep their f**kng mouths shut."
The pair escaped a police pursuit of 10 vehicles, and Cox would remain on the run for over a decade before he was arrested in Victoria.
Before Cox's successful robbery, he had managed to escape out of Sydney's maximum security prison at Katingal in 1977 and only a year later attempted to break back in to free his mates.
Cox, now a free man, is alive and thought to be living in Queensland, while his co-accused died of a drug overdose in the mid 1990s.
April 12, 1978: The bank bandit and the police chase
Leafy suburban Ashgrove in Brisbane's inner-north turned to the scene of a chaotic crime spree on the morning of April 12, 1978.
Armed with a sawn-off .22 calibre rifle, David Lawrence Hunter entered the Bank of New South Wales on Waterworks Road at about 10am- the bank's opening time.
According to reports, he tied up staff before he loaded two bags with $29,292 and calmly exited out the front, passing customers who were queued and waiting for the branch to open.
Hunter, who had a history for armed hold-ups at local banks, would historically call to organise an appointment with the branch manager the day before his robberies.
On the evening of April 11, Hunter had contacted another bank - the CBC Bank, also at Ashgrove - where he organised an appointment with the bank manager for the morning of April 12.
This tipped-off police from the Criminal Investigation Branch Break and Enter Squad, who would be ready and waiting at the CBC Bank early that day.
However, unexpectedly, Hunter threw police into turmoil when he decided to rob the Bank of New South Wales across the road.
"I remember clearly," plain-clothed Constable Barry Krosch (now retired) recalled in an article for the Queensland Police Service's museum archives.
"Detective Pat Clancy running up the street, and saying (puffing like mad) 'he did the wrong bloody bank!'"
Hunter fled in his gold Chevrolet Impala sedan with $29,292.
The ensuing police chase - like something out of a movie - would span the streets of Ashgrove, Toowong and Indooroopilly, before an armed Hunter was fatally shot by police, who fired two bullets straight between the bandit's eyes.
October 11, 2001: A woman's wig and a lethal shot
A man badly disguised as a woman and armed with a shotgun was shot dead by police after he robbed an inner-city bank of just $3000.
Malcolm Robert Bell, who was in his early 50s at the time, was nicknamed the "bad wig bandit" for his foolish attempts at hiding his identity during a spate of armed bank robberies throughout many Australian states.
His life of criminality however came to an end when he was shot by two undercover police officers on the morning of October 11, 2001.
Bell had that day entered the Bendigo Bank on Edward St in Brisbane's CBD armed with a sawn off .22 rifle and kitted with sunglasses and a long black female wig.
He stuffed $3000 into a suitcase before he fled to nearby GPO Lane.
Two officers would later chase after an armed Bell and command him to drop the briefcase and weapon.
Bell ignored orders before police, who were fearful for their safety, were forced to shoot him dead.
The officers involved would later front court over the shooting, where they were both cleared of any wrongdoing.
April 29, 1998 to December 13 1999: Banks, businesses and bad teeth
In the late 1990s, Gregory Stephen Gardner terrorised Brisbane building society offices and banks for a near two-year period.
Before Gardner was identified by police, he was widely referred to throughout the media as the "bad tooth bandit," due to reports of rotting, blackened teeth.
Between April 29, 1988 and December 13, 1999, Gardner netted a total of $46,701 from heists throughout Brisbane's inner suburbs, including banks, Credit Union Australia on Adelaide St, and even an Indooroopilly chemist.
It took a task force of 20 police officers who were part of Operation Immerse, to catch him.
According to reports at the time, Gardner was a heroin addict and had rotten teeth from his drug habit.
He also frequently threatened violence as a means to steal from his unsuspecting victims.
In September of 2000, the then 39-year-old Gardner was sentenced to 10 and a half years jail for his heists, after he pleaded guilty to 10 counts of robbery, seven of armed robbery, one of attempted robbery and one of attempted armed robbery.
Tragically, years after his release, Gardner was murdered in 2017 after he was beaten to death over his Nokia mobile phone and a packet of cigarettes outside a NightOwl convenience store in Brisbane's Stone Corner.
Three teenagers, two as young as 14, were charged with his murder.
SCROLL DOWN FOR MORE IMAGES FROM SOME OF QUEENSLAND'S MOST NOTORIOUS BANK ROBBERIES
Originally published as QLD's biggest bank heists: The five most notorious armed robberies