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Farewell to woman who held her family together through pain and shame

PUBLISHED: 17:29 22 April 2009 | UPDATED: 10:52 12 August 2010

SHOT: Brian Perry was killed walking into his minicab firm in Bermondsey.

SHOT: Brian Perry was killed walking into his minicab firm in Bermondsey.

MOURNERS have paid their respects to the widow of one of the Brinks Mat bullion gold launderers. Dozens of family members and friends were at

MOURNERS have paid their respects to the widow of one of the Brinks Mat bullion gold launderers.

Dozens of family members and friends were at St Mary the Virgin Parish Church, Westerham last Wednesday to say farewell to Maggie Perry, wife of Brian Perry - one of the men involved in the 1983 £23 million heist at Heathrow Airport.

The Rev Paul McVeagh paid tribute to Mrs Perry who he said "made bonds" with everyone she met and who had "given a lot of love".

He said she loved gardening and '60s music and adored the children she leaves behind - Patrick, Robert and Pauline.

Mourners sang hymns The Lord's my Shepherd and I Vow to thee my Country and the vicar read a section of an essay by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

He made reference to difficult times in her life and said that she had held her family together throughout painful periods.

Her husband, Biggin Hill born Brian Perry, 63, a friend of M25 killer Kenneth Noye, was shot dead in November 2001 as he was walking into his minicab firm in south-east London.

He had acted as an agent to two of the men involved in what was then Britain's biggest heist, Brian Robinson and Michael McAvoy, who doused security guards in petrol and threatened to set them alight unless they revealed the vault combinations.

The thieves had expected to find £3 million in cash but once inside found gold bars worth £25 million of which only £11 million has ever been recovered.

Spanning the 26 years since the legendary heist, those involved have been blighted with what's known as the Brinks Mat curse, with some being vengefully murdered and double-crossed and others receiving life sentences.

McAvoy was arrested shortly after the robbery and asked Perry to look after his share of the bullion, who in turn enlisted Bexleyheath-born Kenny Noye to help smelt it down, depositing £10 million into Barclays bank within five weeks.

When McAvoy and Robinson were jailed for 25 years each in 1984, McAvoy tried to cut a deal, a shorter sentence in return for handing his share of the profits back, but by then his bullion had all but disappeared.

He called in close friend and notorious gangster, The Fox, to find out where his money had gone.

The Fox repeatedly told him that Perry refused to give it back but this has been called into question - in fact it is alleged that it was The Fox who had siphoned off McAvoy's cash.

Perry was arrested in 1992 and jailed for nine years and while inside he managed to convince McAvoy he wasn't responsible for stealing his share.

When he was released from jail, he told friends he wanted nothing to do with the criminal underworld anymore and went back to managing his cab firm. He wasn't under police protection and didn't seem to be aware that anyone held a grudge against him so it was a shock when he was gunned down by hitmen, shot three times in the back of the head.

In April 2006, Joseph Pitkin and Bilal Akhtar were cleared of his murder and nobody has ever been charged since.

kate.nelson@archant.co.uk

THE ROBBERY

When: November 26, 1983

Where: Brinks Mat warehouse at Heathrow Airport

What: The robbers thought they would steal £3 million in cash but found three tonnes of gold bullion worth £26 million. Most of the gold has never been recovered and at least £10 million is unaccounted for. It has been reported that anyone wearing gold bought after 1983 is probably wearing Brinks Mat.

Who: Gang leader Michael McAvoy and Brian Robinson - who helped conceive the raid and got into the warehouse thanks to his security guard brother-in-law Anthony Black.

McAvoy and Robinson were sentenced to 25 years in prison, Black got six years. While in prison, McAvoy entrusted his share of the bullion to Brian Perry, from Biggin Hill, and George Francis, whose wife lives in Beckenham, but when he was released in 2000, found £5 million of the loot to be missing. He is believed to have been questioned following the murder of Francis in 2003. Perry hired Kenneth Noye (right) to dispose of the gold. Perry was sentenced to nine years in 1992 and was shot outside his Bermondsey minicab firm in 2001.

While being investigated for his part in laundering Brinks Mat gold, Noye was accused of stabbing police officer John Fordham who was observing him in his garden. He was acquitted of murder on the grounds of self-defence, but was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 1986 for handling stolen gold. He was released from prison in 1994, having served eight years of his sentence. Two years later, in 1996, Noye stabbed 21-year-old motorist Stephen Cameron on the Swanley junction of the M25 which was falsely reported as a 'road rage' incident but has been reported to be a dispute over a drug deal. He was sentenced to life imprisonment.

Tommy and Terry Adams, members of the Islington crime family, were also connected to the case. Tommy was filmed with Noye handling the gold and was later convicted of cannabis smuggling and jailed for seven-and-a-half years in 1998. Terry escaped prosecution for years until he was caught in a money laundering sting and jailed for seven years.

Tony White stood trial along with McAvoy and Robinson but was cleared.

Insurers forced him to pay back almost £28 million, plus more than £2 million in compensation. In 1997 he was jailed for 11 years for his part in a £65 million drug smuggling ring.

Brian Reader, friend to Noye, was at his house when DC Fordham was killed. He was also convicted of handling stolen gold from the Brinks Mat raid and jailed for nine years.

Solicitor Michael Relton was jailed for 12 years for laundering £7.8 million invested in Docklands property.

John 'Goldfinger' Palmer is widely credited with being the brains behind the robbery but has never been convicted of an offence in connection with the raid.

He was jailed for eight years for persuading timeshare owners to buy a new property by falsely claiming he would sell their old one. He travels everywhere with armed guards after threats on his life were made over the Brinks Mat profits.

THE CURSE

-1985: DC John Fordham (above) was stabbed to death with a pitchfork in the grounds of Kenneth Noye's mansion in Kent after he caught the attention of his guard dogs.

-1990: An associate of Noye, car dealer Nick Whiting, went missing from his Kent showroom in 1990. His body was found on Rainham Marshes, Essex. No-one has ever been charged.

-1995: Essex drug dealer Pat Tate, who befriended Noye in prison during his Brinks Mat sentence, was shot dead with two other men in a Range Rover.

-September 1996: Close friend of Noye, builder Keith Hedley, 57, was shot dead as he holidayed on his yacht in Corfu.

- March 1998: Feared enforcer for the notorious Adams family, Gilbert Wynter, disappears. It is said his body was buried in concrete and is propping up the Millennium Dome. Another account of his suspected death asserts that he was killed on the orders of noted London gangster Mickey Green.

-November 1998: Hatton Garden jeweller Solly Nahome, who had helped melt down hundreds of gold bars on behalf of the notorious Adams family, was shot dead outside his home.

-November 2001: Brian Perry, 63, shot dead outside his minicab firm. Joseph Pitkin, 31, and Bilal Akhtar, 22, were put on trial for Perry's murder in March 2006 but walked free after the prosecution case against them collapsed. No one else has ever been charged.

-May 2003: George Francis, also 63, shot a few hundred yards from where Perry was killed outside his courier business. McAvoy is believed to have been questioned over the death of Francis following claims from informants that the dead man owed him more than £5 million worth of gold.

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