Unsolved Murders

John Palmer

Age: 65

Sex: male

Date: 24 Jun 2015

Place: Sandpit Lane, Landsdown, South Weald, Essex

Source: www.bbc.co.uk

John Palmer was shot six times in a contract killing at his home in the garden.

He was known for his links to the Brink's-Mat robbery and was tried for smelting the gold from the robbery but at the trial said that he didn't know it was stolen and was acquitted. He had been tried for conspiracy to handle stolen gold bullion at the Old Bailey in 1987 and after he was acquitted, he blew a kiss to the judge. He had also been involved in a timeshare scam and was at the time of his murder facing up to 15 years in prison in Spain and had recently served four years in the United Kingdom for other fraud charges.

He was known as Goldfinger for his part in melting down gold from the Brink's-Mat robbery and mixing it with other grades from regular jewellery to destroy the ingots serial numbering and quality and thus making it easier to sell on.

It was said that his murderer had stalked him for hours before he shot him and had drilled, or scratched a hole in a garden fence with a nail to observe him through. It was said then that at about 5pm, when John Palmer went to a far corner of his garden to burn some documents on a bonfire that the man jumped over the fence and shot him six times with a silenced .32 calibre revolver from close range. It was said that after being shot, John Palmer had stumbled 15 metres. It was said that no shots were heard at the house and that John Palmer's body was not found until over an hour after he had been shot. His body was found by his son's girlfriend.

It was also reported that the police believed that John Palmer's murderer had had military training.

The gun was never found. The police noted that the crime scene had been professionally stripped of evidence.

He had bullet wounds to his right elbow, right breast, upper abdomen, left bicep, upper back and left kidney.

His house in the South Weald, a four-bed detached home, was describe as being set in a remote woodland.

The police said that they wanted to trace a hooded man that was seen in Weald Country Park near to John Palmer's home at about 5.50pm on 24 June 2015. He was described as in his early 20s, about 5ft 10in tall, with short dark blond hair, wearing light blue jeans and a light baggy hooded top.

The police said that they were also trying to trace a man and a woman that were seen near John Palmer's home the day before he was shot.

The police also said that they wanted to trace three men that were seen digging in woodland near John Palmer's home the day before he was murdered. They were seen in the later morning. One of the men was said to have been aged between 30 to 40 and was just under 6ft tall and of average build with dark hair.

It was said that the location in his garden was the one place that wasn't covered by CCTV surveillance and that ordinarily he would have had his rottweiler dogs with him, but at the time he didn't. It was said that because of his background, he had taken his security seriously over the years with significant measures in place, often wearing body armour in public for protection, but that over the past four years he had wound down the intensity of his security measures, relying mostly on his dogs. It was also noted however, that John Palmer had wanted an area in his garden not covered by CCTV because he had been paranoid that his CCTV would capture the numbers he was dialling on his phone.

It was also noted that at the time of his murder, the police had had him under direct surveillance for about four months and had been observing him for over a decade but didn't know anything about his assassination.

It was reported that after the police were informed of his death, they had assumed that his death was accidental, thinking that his wounds were related to recent keyhole surgery for gallbladders that he had undertaken that had reopened. It wasn't until six days later, including a weekend, that the police stated that their pathologist had told then that John Palmer had actually been shot. The Essex police were later criticised over the delays in spotting his gunshot wounds which delayed the launching of his murder investigation and meant that vital forensic evidence was possibly lost. Some critics said that it resulted in the crime scene itself being lost.

John Palmer's post-mortem took place at Basildon Hospital.

John Palmer was one of a large number of people that had been connected to the Brink's-Mat robbery who died suddenly. It was said that 20 criminals with connections to the robbery had died in suspicious circumstances in what was described as the Brinks Mat curse. The robbery took place in 1983 at Heathrow Airport, in which £26,000,000 of gold was stolen. It was heard that the robbers had poured petrol over the staff and threated to set them on fire if they didn't reveal the combinations for the vaults. It was also noted that they had been expecting to find £3,200,000 in cash, but instead found the £26,000,000 of gold, diamonds and money. The gold had weighed three tonnes. John Palmer had lived in Landsdown near Bath at the time and had melted the gold down in his back garden.

It was noted that when the police connected John Palmer's company to the smelting of the gold, he fled to Tenerife with his family and had to be extradited in order to face trial.

As well as his connections to the Brink's-Mat robbery, it was also noted that John Palmer had been involved in a large time share business in which 17,000 people lost money, resulting in the police admitting that John Palmer could have had thousands of enemies.

He was arrested in 1997 in Tenerife and returned to the United Kingdom to face charges on the large-scale timeshare fraud and in May 2001 he was sentenced to eight years of which he served four and ordered to pay £33,000,000. It was said that he had been selling apartment contracts in Tenerife that were worthless and that he came down hard on rival operators that entered his territory. His first trial in 1999 had lasted 9 months but collapsed after a newspaper report on Kenneth Noye's conviction for the M25 murder of Stephen Cameron referred to John Palmer being Kenneth Noye's rich pal who had flown him out of the country after the killing. The jury had to be discharged and the trial started again. John Palmer had represented himself at the trial. Kenneth Noye was convicted in 1986 for handling stolen goods from the Brink's-Mat robbery and served eight years of a fourteen-year sentence in prison.

The second trial started in October 2000.

It was reported that one of the people that had given evidence against John Palmer at the trial was a woman that had lost money in his scam. She said that at the trial she realised how dangerous John Palmer was and said that when John Palmer asked her in court if she knew who he was she replied, 'yes, you're the conman who had my money', for which she was told off by the judge. She said that after the first trial collapsed, John Palmer's timeshare resort company sent her a refund of her £6,300. The woman said that John Palmer was trying to pay her off because he knew she was a strong witness, but she said that she went back and gave evidence against him again. John Palmer was convicted at the end of the second trial.

The trials took place at the Old Bailey and it was heard that John Palmer was consumed by greed and had plotted with others to take customers for every penny they had through a buy-sell scam which promised to sell a holidaymaker's timeshare at an overvalued price within weeks if they agreed to buy another property at one of John Palmer's other thirteen Canary Islands timeshares. However, it was heard that the customers were left with two properties and that when thy tried to get their refunds, they were pointed to resale companies that had been set up to handle the refunds through which they had to pay hundreds of pounds to register for their refunds, none of which ever happened. It was heard that people had been lured to timeshare presentations with promises of scratch card prizes and given cheap sparkling wine and faced with aggressive sales agents who would often drive customers to the bank to get cash, often claiming that the credit card machines were broken.

Although John Palmer was ordered to pay back millions of pounds, it was heard that very little of that reached the people that had lost money in his timeshare operations.

It was also heard that during his time in prison, John Palmer was still operating his time-share business from behind bars. However, it was heard that after he was released, he found that the timeshare market in Spain had changed considerably and it was said that he had found himself having to make deals with eastern European mafias and Russian Mafia bosses.

At one point he was one of the richest people in the country, worth more than the Queen of England at £300,000,000, being ranked 105 in the Sunday Times rich list.

However, it was reported that in 2005 John Palmer was declared bankrupt with debts of £3,900,000.

Following his death, it was reported that he had also been protected by six corrupt policemen who would supply him with information about any criminal investigations into him or other gang activity.

It was also said that he had been fighting extradition to Spain and working with the police to prevent that and that might also have been a reason why someone might have wanted to silence him. He had faced recent real estate fraud and money laundering charges in Spain and it was said that he was facing 15 years imprisonment. However, it was noted that he had been allowed incredibly unusual bail conditions that had allowed him to return to the United Kingdom and was fighting his return to Spain. As such, it was claimed that he had been working with the British authorities, otherwise he would not have been given the bail conditions that he had and it was said that some people suspected him of becoming a supergrass in order to have some charges against him dropped, and it was thought that he could have been murdered because of that.

However, at the time of his murder, the police refused to comment on whether or not John Palmer had been a police informant.

It was said that John Palmer had been due to fly out to Spain a few days after he was murdered. It was noted that eleven other people had been due to stand trial with him and it was questioned as to whether any of them stood to benefit from his murder.

It was also noted that during his time operating the timeshares, John Palmer had become involved with the Russian mafia and the Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky who also died in 2013 under suspicious circumstances after he was found hanged in his bathroom. Although his death was officially considered a suicide, some people claimed he had been murdered and an open verdict was returned at his inquest.

Amongst other criminal ventures, it was also claimed that John Palmer had financed the 2006 Securitas raid at Heathrow in which £52,000,000 was stolen. The raid was said to have been carried out by a joint British and Eastern European crime network. It was heard that after the robbery, many of the people involved were arrested and started blaming each other and that John Palmer was blamed for much of the unrest which caused a war between the British and Eastern European crime organisations.

It was also claimed that John Palmer might have been murdered by the same person that had murdered Charlie Wilson who was also shot in his back garden in Marbella, Spain on 23 April 1990. Charlie Wilson had been involved in the Great Train Robbery in August 1963 in which £2,600,000 was stolen from a Royal Mail train, and it was suggested that the murderer was sending out the message that anyone could be killed at any place and at any time.

In August 2015 a man from Rugby was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to murder, but he was later released.

In February 2017, a man from Tyneside, who lived in Spain at the time was questioned by the police over John Palmer's murder but nothing more is noted.

Other claims made by a crime writer state that the man who murdered John Palmer was paid £100,000 for the hit and had probably himself also been subsequently murdered.

It was also claimed by the crime writer that John Palmer left school not being able to write and that as such he had recorded all his meetings which had left a lot of people nervous. It was then said that the tapes were one of the targets in the 2015 Hatton Garden safety deposit raid and that the raid had left John Palmer open to extortion after one of the robbers got away with the tapes. It was said that amongst the tapes, John Palmer had recorded two underworld gangsters talking about two murders they had committed and had used the tapes to keep them off his back but that the tapes had been at Hatton Garden and taken. It was claimed then that after the underworld criminals got their hands on the tapes, they started to blackmail John Palmer, demanding £1,000,000 a month to guarantee his safety.

The police stated in March 2016 that they thought that there were two main lines of enquiry into his murder:

  • His trial in Spain which was the culmination of an eight-year investigation into real estate fraud in Spain.
  • Other significant events in 2015 in the criminal underworld, including significant crimes, significant law enforcement intervention into organised crime and significant arrests of people in organised crime groups.

John Palmer had come from a deprived background in Birmingham and was noted for starting off his career by selling paraffin from the back of a lorry after which he had moved in to jewellery and gone to the Bristol area. Following his involvement in the Brink's-Mat affair he became rich and moved into other business operations including the time-share operations in Tenerife and Spain. He is commonly known for making his fortune in scrap metal.


*map pointers are rough estimates based on known location details as per Place field above.