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Gold Bullion Robbery: 1935 Part II

Robin Dewell continues his story of the Goild Bullion robbery at Croydon Airport in 1935 in the stye of the newspapers at the time:




“DANGEROUS MAN.” |           IN   CROYDON.


After a trial lasting three days and occupying seventeen hours, Cecil Swanland, a forty-seven years old artist, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to seven years’ penal servitude by the Recorder of Croydon, when the jury found him guilty of complicity in the in the theft of bullion from the strong room at Croydon Aerodrome.

Two other men originally charged had been discharged at different stages of the trial.

             The Recorder in his summing up referred to the point made by the defence that although six hours had elapsed between the two visits of the police, the articles which might have been regarded regarded as incriminating had not been removed, “It is a most extraordinary thing in the history of crime,” he said “that in the most elaborately and cleverly devised crimes, some stupid little thing is overlooked.”.


                After a retirement of about fifteen minutes the jury found Swanland guilty.

           During the absence of the jury The Recorder expressed the view “That it was a farce to put a man up for identification when he was perfectly well known to the witness. He could not conceive why unless it was an attempt to make evidence against the accused, and he deprecated any attempt to create evidence”. He also characterised the evidence of an alleged conversation in Brixton Prison as “the kind of evidence which I do not like.”



[Taken from an article by Kirsty Whalley in 2009]

              Documents released from the National Archives give an answer to the puzzle of how the gang got into the strong room so easily. The police interviewed Mazzarda again in 1937 and he told them they had obtained copies of the strong room keys from Burtwell Peters, the chief unloader, at the Aerodrome who was paid handsomely for his part in the robbery.
Why Mazzarda should tell the police is not clear; but not mentioned at the trial was that he was a getaway driver for the notorious Sabini gang and probably felt his strong mob connections would protect him.
               Mrs Margaret Swanland, the convicted artist’s stylish twenty-one year old wife, was evicted from her lodgings and moved in with her mother in Soho. She was known to have a substantial bank account after the robbery.

Robin Dewell

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