It was Easter Monday, and five thieves — three wearing balaclavas, two in monkey masks and all of them armed and speaking with fake Irish accents — had broken into a security company in East London.

When one of the guards, who was blindfolded and tied to a chair, hesitated to reveal the vault's combination, the gang put lighter fluid under his nostrils and threatened to light a match, one of the thieves, Freddie Foreman, recalled recently.

The criminals sped away with 6 million pounds, about US$9 million at the time of the heist in 1983 — the largest cash

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