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The Kilburn Gang of Bank Robbers

I went to school with a bank robber, but I did not know it at the time.

In January 1962 four men from Kilburn were arrested while attempting to break in through a window at the rear of the Barclays Bank in Kenton Road Harrow.

In court the men were described as: Brian Shrimpton (19) a labourer from Palmerston Road; Brian Phillips (23) a driver also from Palmerston Road; David Francis Murphy (17) a labourer from Brondesbury Villas Kilburn, and John Stainer (18) a van boy from The Avenue Brondesbury.

They had been in the Prince of Wales pub in Kingsbury when they were overheard planning the raid. But their luck was out - they did not know that the men at the next table were three policemen from the Flying Squad. The Kilburn men drove off in a van to check out the Kenton Road bank, then they went to The Cabin café at 80 Palmerston Road in Kilburn and back to Kenton to do the bank raid. 

They were unaware that they had been followed all the way by the Flying Squad and were totally surprised when at midnight the police turned on their headlights and caught them. In the van were bolt cutters, gelignite and detonators used to blow open safes. PC Wetherill said he felt a gun in Shrimpton’s pocket, and he shouted a warning to PC Mead. It turned out to be an air pistol and Shrimpton said, ‘All right, all right. I wasn’t going to use it’.

The Cabin café at 80 Palmerston Road (Jean Smith, 1964)
In court Shrimpton said the van was owned by himself, Phillips, Stainer and two other men. They used it as wholesale greengrocers to deliver to restaurants and cafés. Phillips lived above The Cabin café and said the sketch map of the area close to the Barclays bank found in his pocket was because they were going to meet someone in Kenton. He admitted that he knew something about explosives from his five years in the Army, having joined in 1956. 

They were found guilty, and Shrimpton who had 10 previous convictions was sentenced to four years, and Phillips to three years. The two younger men each received three years’ probation.

37 Palmerston Road, 1954 OS Map
Brian Shrimpton lived with his family at 37 Palmerston Road. In the 1950s he was at Kingsgate Junior School with Dick Weindling, Peter Binns, Ray Brindle and Dan Shackell. Peter can still remember how poor and neglected Brian was wearing old smelly clothes and plimsoll shoes which were falling apart. His record from Kingsgate says when Brian left at 11 he went to a remand home, so he was obviously in trouble from an early age.

In the late 1960s and 1970s Camden Council built the large Webheath estate in Kilburn on the site of Palmerston Road and neighbouring streets, and the Shrimpton family were re-housed there.

Brian continued his criminal career and by 1979 he had a new gang who robbed banks wearing grotesque ‘old man’ masks and carrying sawn-off shotguns. On 1 June they attempted to rob the National Westminster bank at Burnt Oak Broadway. When the bank staff were too slow giving them the money, the robbers grabbed two young men who were shot and wounded in the legs. Then they shouted the other customers would ‘bloody get it’. But the robbers left empty-handed and ran out to their getaway car which was driven by a woman. On 13 June they stole £6,500 from the Nat West bank in Copthorne Court Maida Vale. On 23 July they got away with £8,900 from the Nat West in Kenton Road, and their fourth raid netted £17,568 (today worth about £90,000) from the Barclays bank in Kingsbury Green Kenton. At the last job, a brave counter clerk pressed a button to active a secret camera which photographed the robbers.
Photo of robber during the raid from the hidden camera
 They were arrested and appeared at the Old Bailey in April 1980. Brian Shrimpton then aged 37, living in Webheath and working as a minicab driver, was sentenced to 18 years. Robert Speed (28) a painter of Blessbury Road Burnt Oak got 16 years. Edward Kelly (19) an unemployed labourer, of Kingsgate Road Kilburn received 14 years. Ellen (25) who was Speed’s wife and probably drove the getaway car, was given a 12-month sentence, suspended for two years.

It seems that Brian Shrimpton and his gang chose not to copy the modus operandi of a previous very successful armed gang who robbed banks all over North London in the late 1960s and early 70s. Bertie Smalls, one of the leaders and the first supergrass, proudly said that he invented the technique where a ‘frightener’ with a sawn-off shotgun entered the bank and fired into the ceiling which quickly got everyone under control.


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