THE Great Train Robbers ditched a huge haul of cash from their infamous raid because they were Scottish banknotes, it has been claimed.
Gang members were said to be too wary of the “foreign” money snatched in the 1963 robbery, in which they stole £2.6 million (the equivalent of over £40m today) so they left it in their countryside hideout.
But this proved to be one of the key pieces of evidence that led to most of the 15-man gang’s eventual capture.
Author Nick Russell-Pavier, who carried out a series of interviews with mastermind Bruce Reynolds before he died, revealed the gang left behind a large sum in Scottish and Irish banknotes because they were wary of the currency.
Police found a bag containing £628 in Scottish notes in their Leatherslade Farm hideout, worth just over £11,000 today.
A total of £19,692 and ten shillings in Scottish and Irish notes was contained in mailbags on the Glasgow-Euston train, which the gang stopped in the Buckinghamshire countryside, worth nearly £350,000 today.
Russell-Pavier said: “The whole premise was they were just a bit wary about Scottish notes – in the way some people are even today.”
The author’s book, The Great Train Robbery: Crime of the Century: The Definitive Account, says the gang’s decision to leave the mailbags and cash behind in the hideout was an “extraordinarily stupid mistake.”
As they were hunting the thieves, police found mailbags, balaclavas, bolt cutters and even a Monopoly board, which had the gang’s fingerprints on it. The robbers had used their haul as Monopoly money after the raid.
The book says that if the robbers had cleared up the evidence from the farmhouse effectively “none of the mail-train robbers would ever have been successfully prosecuted.”
But one member of the gang did take some of the Scottish notes, though he did not get to spend all of it.
Chief getaway driver Roy John James was caught after a chase over London rooftops. He had £131 in his pockets, including two £5 notes from the National Commercial Bank of Scotland, Inverness, which had been sent to London on the mail train.
James, a racing driver, is said to have been more “cosmopolitan” than the rest of the gang.
Russell-Pavier said: “They were working-class London boys and they didn’t really know much about the wider world.
“Part of the reason they chose to have a country hideout was that, rather naively, as city boys, they thought in the country there aren’t that many people around.
“But, of course, in rural communities you are much more conspicuous if you are in a farmhouse in the middle of the countryside.”
Last year, London mayor Boris Johnson told the city’s buses to take Scottish notes, following complaints from tourists.
A 2009 bill from Conservative MP David Mundell to force retailers to accept the notes was rejected.