Scott Bainbridge writes about The Great New Zealand Robbery of 1956
Largely forgotten today, the waterfront payroll robbery of 1956 gripped the nation at the time and for decades after.
But that was only after details of the crime could no longer be suppressed. This was a crime on a scale that threatened to embarrass the government less than a year out from a crucial general election. The political atmosphere at the time was one of the government losing its grip, regarding unsolved crimes, and Minister of Justice Jack Marshall put pressure on police to solve the waterfront robbery quickly.
The Great New Zealand Robbery published by Allen & Unwin, is a masterly work by leading true crime author Scott Bainbridge. It is a well-researched story of the most audacious and meticulously executed heist in New Zealand’s history. Scott Bainbridge is the author of four true crime books.
Only one man, small-time crook Trevor Edward Nash, was ever convicted for the crime, and he may have only been called in at the last minute when the main perpetrators were unable to open the safe that contained the payroll for Auckland’s waterside workers.
Nash became a legend in his own lifetime as a man who could escape from prison while serving a seven-year sentence, stay on the run for months and leave the country, only to be arrested by a foreign cop with a photographic memory.
Interestingly, while Trevor Nash was serving time in the Big House (Mount Eden prison) another Nash (no relation) was serving time as New Zealand’s oldest prime minister. Both were elected within months of each other (one with only 12 votes) and both escaped their sentence within months of each other.
Nash never acted alone in the robbery, or with his escape from prison. Many high-profile gangsters of the time were investigated but none was ever charged with the payroll robbery or with assisting with Nash’s escape. Nash alone took the rap, and in 2001 he took his secrets, and the names of his co-offenders, to his grave. He was a poker-faced criminal who carried out his crimes and covered his tracks with meticulous care. Apart from one fateful episode, Trevor Nash never drew attention to himself. But that one episode changed the course of the police investigation and put Trevor Nash behind bars. Bainbridge describes it all brilliantly.
Nash was elevated from an over-looked, small-time crook with few skills or connections, to a daring highly organised criminal who would be closely scrutinised by police for the rest of his days. Despite that, he was only ever charged with one other robbery. But on that occasion the jury found him not guilty.
In the book, Bainbridge names the criminals who most likely organised New Zealand’s greatest ever robbery and helped Nash escape. A fascinating read that conveys the strong message that there is loyalty among thieves, sometimes, even if it come with a price tag.