The Great Heist of 1987

The Great Heist of 1987



It was a Saturday in October, back in 1987. Back then jewellers never tended to lock their doors. Crime wasn’t a big problem here in Edinburgh. Working in the Queensferry Street shop that day were owner Ronald Goodwin and Isabel Johnstone, who still works here, along with two more sales people.

It was a quiet morning — until two men burst through the door wearing ski masks, brandishing sawn-off shotguns. Ronald, in the back, heard the commotion and though it was son Joe and his mates, mucking around. At first he was unconcerned as he approached the men, who still stood by the door, but he quickly assessed the situation and said, ‘Take whatever you want and go.’ The thieves leaned into the window. In those days we displayed rings on pads (as seen in this photo, which was used in the press reports). The thieves grabbed as many ring pads as they could and stuffed them into their bags.

Outside they had bicycles waiting instead of getaway cars, and as they clambered onto them they dropped one of the guns. It lay on the street as they cycled off down the road.They deliberately went the wrong way down a one way system to try and make it harder for anyone in a car to follow.

There was a female accomplice who had remained outside with a pram. She approached as they peddled past. They flung the jewellery into her pram and sped off. She carried on into town and went into what was then a Wimpy bar and is now the HSBC on the corner of Princes Street. She went up to their Ladies’ Room and began taking things out of the bag — but as luck would have it, she dropped it. Some of the rings fell out on the floor.

A conscientious woman, seeing this happen, alerted security. The accomplice ran away but she didn’t have time pick up all the rings, so we managed to retrieve those.

The police were able to trace the robbers through the dropped shotgun, and the two men were caught about six weeks later. One was an escaped convict from France, the other was a man from Motherwell. They were sentenced to eleven years each, but their accomplice was let off because she had a baby.

Shortly after that we installed a lock on the door and CC TV cameras. We were one of the first jewellers to do that — and sadly, one of the first to be robbed, as well.