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BIG LIST: Ridiculous Robberies

Friday 23 December 2011, 04:39PM

Most normal criminals rob banks, steal cars, or maybe just take your wallet. But where’s the fun in being normal? Over the years creative crooks have entered the spotlight for targeting much less conventional goodies – Christmas trees, grain (see opposite), or any of the following:

Burning bridges:

If someone offered to sell you the Golden Gate Bridge, you’d probably have the good sense to know it was a scam. But if someone in Khabarovsk, Russia, were to offer you a 200-tonne steel bridge, they might actually deliver. In January 2008, employees on their way to a remote heating plant were forced to find an alternate route after the 15-metre-long steel bridge they crossed the day before vanished. While the workers slept, scrap metal thieves dismantled the span and supports and loaded it all onto trucks for a quick getaway. At the time, the plant’s owners estimated it would cost around US$40,000 to build a new bridge. This time, though, they will use concrete.

Lifting lingerie:

During the 1992 LA riots, while some looters were busy stealing TVs and VCRs, others broke into Frederick’s of Hollywood and made off with around US$200,000 in women’s undergarments. The company also suffered the loss of a few one-of-a-kind items from the store’s lingerie museum – a bustier with gold tassels that Madonna wore in the music video for Open Your Heart, a pair of Ava Gardner’s bloomers, and a push-up bra worn by Katey Sagal as Married…With Children’s Peg Bundy. A few days later, a man known only as Jim B came forward to return Peg’s push-up and Ava’s undies. Madonna’s bustier was never recovered, despite a US$1,000 reward from the company. We like to think it made someone very happy though.

A deer friend:


Escaped psychiatric patient Leon Hollimon stole an ambulance in Lexington, North Carolina, and led police on a cat-and-mouse chase for hours, travelling through four different counties in two states. One of the cops likened the chase to an episode of Dukes of Hazzard. Eventually, the culprit ran off the road and was apprehended wearing a stethoscope, carrying latex gloves, and sporting a mohawk. It was an odd enough crime, but it got really weird when authorities found, splayed in the back, a dead deer with an IV stuck into its body. There was also evidence that Hollimon had tried using a defibrillator on the animal. Hollimon was taken to a nearby mental health facility for evaluation.

Ashes to ashes:

After Kurt Cobain’s death in 1994, most of his ashes were spread over the grounds of a Buddhist temple in New York and in the Wishkash River in Washington state. His wife, Courtney Love, kept what was left inside a pink, bear-shaped handbag, hidden in a closet at her Hollywood home. In June 2008, Love said that a former friend had broken in and stolen the bag. The ashes’ whereabouts were unknown until a few months later, when German performance artist Natascha Stellmach claimed she acquired them, mixed them with marijuana, and planned to smoke the whole thing as part of an art installation entitled Set Me Free. Of course, no one is able to substantiate whether Cobain’s remains were in the joint or if it was just a publicity stunt. Either way, the ashes were never recovered.

Full Nelson:

Shawn Nelson was a typical man whose life got a little tough, so he decided to steal a 57-tonne M60 Patton Tank from his local National Guard armoury. As it turns out, tanks don’t require keys to start. Yes, the hatches were locked, but police theorised he used a crowbar to break into three different tanks before finding one that would start. (Yup, the only thing stopping Al Qaeda from taking over an armoured division was that they didn’t know about the crowbar thing.)  The ensuing 23 minute chase ended only when Nelson managed to get the tank stuck on a barrier. At that point, the cops jumped on the war machine, opened the hatch and shot Shawn to death.

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