Essex

Who was timeshare king John 'Goldfinger' Palmer?

John 'Goldfinger' Palmer Image copyright PA
Image caption The former scrap metal dealer was known for his involvement in the Brink's-Mat robbery

A coroner has concluded the notorious conman John "Goldfinger" Palmer was unlawfully killed. What might a man who wore body armour under his designer suits have done to upset the criminal underworld?

John "Goldfinger" Palmer kept a sign on his office desk which read: "Remember the golden rule - he who has the gold makes the rules."

But the former scrap metal dealer from Olton, near Birmingham, was also fond of breaking them, going on to become one of Britain's most prolific criminals.

He started young - selling paraffin off the back of a lorry, having left school at 15 a serial truant who learned to neither read or write.

He then moved on to work as a jewellery dealer in Bristol, a job which some might speculate gave him a taste for precious metals.

Image copyright PA
Image caption John "Goldfinger" Palmer, pictured in 2001, was a convicted conman

But it was for his involvement in the 1983 Brink's-Mat robbery at Heathrow Airport which he became infamous and earned him his nickname.

More than £25m worth of gold was stolen in what was considered at the time as the biggest robbery to have ever taken place in the UK.

Mr Palmer, who was one of seven children, was said to have melted the metal down in the back garden of his mansion at Landsdown near Bath.

However, he denied knowing it was stolen and was acquitted in 1987, blowing kisses to the jury from the dock when the verdict was delivered.

Worth around £500m in today's prices, most of the gold has never been recovered and the case remains open.


John Palmer: The family man

Image copyright BBC Crimewatch
Image caption John Palmer was best known for his criminal activities, but his partner Christine (left) and son James (right) said they are "incredibly proud" of him
  • The 'timeshare king' is best known for his criminal activities, but he was also a father-of-three and his family say they are "incredibly proud" of him
  • His partner, former medical secretary, Christina Ketley lived with him in South Weald, and was part of his life for more than 30 years
  • She is the mother of his only son, James Ketley, who said he always spent "quality time" with his father, who was usually "laughing or joking around"
  • Mr Palmer also had two daughters with his ex-wife Marnie, a former hairdresser and beauty queen

In the decade that followed, he seemingly managed to stay out of trouble, but it was not the case behind the scenes.

He was secretly building a massive timeshare scam in Tenerife which propelled him to 105th on the Sunday Times Rich List, a position he shared with the Queen.

His criminal activities netted him an estimated fortune of £300m, which he used to buy a mansion, a French chateau with its own golf course, a jet, two helicopters, a classic car collection and a yacht called the Brave Goose of Essex.

Image copyright www.normandythenandnow.com
Image caption The chateau that John Palmer bought in Normandy now lies empty and in a state of disrepair

But Mr Palmer knew he was playing a risky game, having left about 20,000 victims out of pocket, and he took to wearing body armour underneath his designer suits.

Justice eventually caught up with him and he was jailed for eight years in 2001 for the Spanish scam.

Mr Palmer represented himself - his defence being he was so rich he did not need to be involved with the fraud.


John Palmer: The friend to criminals

Image copyright PA
Image caption John Palmer was known to have been friends with Hatton Garden ringleader Brian Reader (left) and M25 road rage killer Kenneth Noye (right)
  • Kenneth Noye was sentenced to 14 years in prison for his role in the Brink's-Mat robbery, while Mr Palmer walked away. In 1996, Noye murdered a motorist in a road rage incident on the M25. It is suspected Mr Palmer arranged for him to be flown by helicopter to France and on to southern Spain in his jet, where he remained on the run for two years. He was jailed for life in 2000
  • Hatton Garden ringleader Brian Reader was also convicted for his role in the Brink's-Mat raid. He pleaded guilty to his role in masterminding the £14m Hatton Garden heist but was too ill to be sentenced with his associates
  • Garth Chappell was one of Mr Palmer's oldest friends and long-time business partner, who was also convicted of involvement in the Brink's-Mat theft. Chappell was sentenced to 10 years in jail for handling the stolen gold, but has remained out of serious trouble since

Roy Ramm, ex-commander of specialist operations at the Metropolitan Police, testified against him during the trial and describes him as "a strange man", who was well aware of the number of enemies he had accrued over the years.

"He was quite an arrogant man, which led him to dismissing his barrister," he said.

Mr Palmer was arrested at his second home in Tenerife in 2007 and charged with fraud, firearm possession and money laundering.

His family insists he had turned his life around by the time of his death, but he was about to stand trial and some were said to be concerned about what he would say in court.

Image copyright BBC Crimewatch
Image caption John Palmer, pictured with his son James Ketley, was about to stand trial when he was shot dead at 65

Another theory is he was a police informant, which would have worried many in the underworld. Officers say his colourful past finally caught up with him in the form of a professional hitman.

"He probably felt he was quite safe out in South Weald while he was at home," Mr Ramm said.

Clearly Mr Palmer was mistaken.

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