Saturday, 17 October 2015

Clever Theft from Seymours Store 1933

On July 18, 1933 the Sydney Morning Herald (page 9) reported:

The most remarkably planned robbery in New South Wales for many years was completed at Marrickville during the week-end, when the big department store of H. T. Seymour, Ltd., at the corner of Victoria and Marrickville roads, was entered by way of an underground tunnel and tobacco worth £400 was stolen.

The work was that of a gang of expert thieves. To enter the store the thieves tunnelled upwards for 10 feet from a storm water channel which runs under the store, and picked through the concrete flooring, eight inches thick, of the company's tobacco storeroom. The gang took their loot under ground to the stormwater channel, and then carried it for three-quarters of a mile to the channel mouth, where they loaded it into a car. The thieves' tunnelling operations must have occupied weeks, but in the store above there was no indication that they were at work.

Seymour's Corner at the corner of Marrickville & Victoria Roads was
flanked by a Department Store on the Eastern side and a timber yard opposite.
There had been many robberies in the district and the management of H. T. Seymour, Ltd., had been taking special precautions against theft. All doors had been fitted with burglar alarms and a special watch had been kept outside the store.

The theft, first discovered by a female employee, was reported to Mr. J. Gabel, managing director, who was amazed to find the 18 inch by 12 inch hole in the concrete floor formed the mouth of a tunnel that ran downwards irregularly.


Mr. Gabel and Detective-sergeant Hayes and Detective Sharp, of Marrickville traced the stormwater channel to its nearest entrance, on a vacant allotment about 150 yards away from the store. Groping their way along the channel, in which a few inches of water was running and which was about five feet in height, they reached a spot in the wall from which the bricks had been removed.

Two miners' picks, a shovel, a big hammer, and an old pair of trousers were lying below the hole. The thickness of the brickwork which had been removed was l8 inches, and a Water Board employee estimated that the making of the hole would have provided a day's work for his men.

Pieces of string still further along the channel attracted the attention of the police. It proved to be portion of the string used to tie the stolen packages of tobacco. Following the narrowing channel they eventually emerged at an embankment of the Sydenham-Bankstown railway line close to Myrtle street.

Manufacturers Exhibition (Marrickville Town Hall?)
Seymour display can be seen on lower right.
The police considered the tunnel made by the thieves to be worthy of  a mining engineer. The gang, after making the hole in the brickwork of the wall of the storm-water channel, excavated a large hole with a diameter of about 4ft 6in, the floor of which was level with the bottom of the hole in the brick work. They had then made a narrow opening in the top of this hole, large enough to admit a man. Their next step was to make a second large hole above this opening and about the size of the first hole. Their excavations had then taken them to the floor of the building.
This tunnelling is thought to have taken weeks, because most of the earth from the excavation had been washed away in the channel by the previous week's rains. Working at night, the thieves are thought to have made a practice of entering the storm-water channel at the mouth nearest to the store.

The completion of the hole in the concrete flooring must have taken place either on Saturday or Sunday night as none of the company's employees was in the tobacco storeroom between Saturday morning and Monday morning.


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