Security is something that we all take for granted. Throughout history, our world has been shaped by events that have shook the very core of humanity. As technology has advanced, so too has the sophistication of threats to national security and civilian life pointing an even larger emphasis on our ability to spot and prevent such threats.
From close protection to airport security, these events highlighted the gaping holes in existing security protocols. We take a step back in time to experience some of the world’s most shocking breaches of security that not only resulted in wars, terrorist attacks and unnecessary death, but also developed the security industry on every level.
June 28, 1914
Assassination of Franz Ferdinand
Arguably one of the most cataclysmic assassination attempts the world has ever seen. When six young Bosnian Serbs plotted to assassinate Archduke Franz Ferdinand, little did they know they would spark a world conflict that would result in the deaths of millions.
Heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, the Archduke and his wife Sophie, were due to inspect the army in Sarajevo. En route, a first conspirator threw a car bomb at his car. This missed and the attacker was subsequently arrested.
Deciding to abandon his visit, the Archduke looked to return home. However, the driver was not informed of the route changed and turned onto Franz Josef Street route before realising his mistake. Gavrillo Princip was waiting and upon seeing the vehicle, fired two shots. One hit the Franz Ferdinand in the neck, whilst the other fatally hit Sophie.
The aftermath saw the assassinations caught, countries lay ultimatums, declarations of war and an arms race that would see millions upon millions die for their country.
Aug 8, 1963
The Great Train Robbery
It’s planning and execution has been immortalised on the big screen with the story of the Great Train Robbery one of the most referenced throughout history. What makes this more astounding is that the £2.6 million (£46 million today) was taken without the single use of a firearm.
A 15 strong gang, led by Bruce Reynolds and Ronnie Biggs, carefully plotted their plan to intercept an overnight mail train. In the early hours of the 8th August, the gang stopped the train tampering the singlas and made their move. After overpowering both locomotive crew members, they moved the train to a new location to unload the loot.
Having cut all telephone lines, the robbers took all but 8 of the 128 sacks and made their getaway. What resulted was a media frenzy and world-wide search for the money and the robbers as they looked to cover their tracks. Eventually, the gang and its ringleaders were caught and sentenced up to 30 years in prions. However, not all of the money was recovered and its whereabouts remains a mystery…
Nov 22, 1963
Surrounded by conspiracies and secrecy, in 1963 one of America’s most loved and inspiring presidential figures was fatally shot by a sniper in Dallas during a presidential motorcade. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy stood for a new America, but one that he wouldn’t live to shape.
The setting was Dealey Plaza, only five minutes away from the motorcades final destination. Lee Harvey Oswald, a former marine, had taken up a high position in the Texas School Book Depository building. As the Presidents vehicle, holding Kennedy, his wife Jacqueline, Texas governor John Connally and his wife Nellie and passed onto Elms Street, three shots were fired.
Two bullets hit JFK’s back and shattered the back of his head, with the other missing. What followed was a concoction of madness, reactive security measures and an emergency evacuation, which would see the President pounced dead in the emergency room.
Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested and due to stand trial for the murder, which he continued deny, but was subsequently murdered by patriot Jack Ruby.
Nov 24, 1971
D. B. Cooper
Whilst not the largest settlement, the case of D. B. Cooper is much more mysterious and unusual. On 24th November 1971, the suspect purchased an airline ticket for flight 305 to Seattle from Portland under the alias Dan Cooper.
On board, he handed a note to female passenger stating that he had a bomb and that he was hijacking the plan. He requested $200,000, 4 parachutes and a fuel truck standing by to refuel the plane. The plane circled Seattle for 2 hours whilst his demands were met, where he then instructed the plane to land for passengers and flight attendants to be released.
After refuelling, he then instructed the new flight plan to the crew and they took off towards Mexico. All personnel were instructed to remain in the cockpit. The plane landed at its destination surrounded by FBI agents and state troopers, but Cooper was nowhere to be found.
Hundreds of leads and evidence have been put forward but his identification and whereabouts remain a mystery. He parachuted to an uncertain fate and the case remains the only unsolved air piracy in American aviation history.
Sept 5-6, 1972
The 1972 Olympics – Munich Massacre
Sport and politics have been rendered a toxic mix and with such a prestigious and open-armed event as the Olympics, the 1972 Games demonstrated just how fatal they can be.
Welcoming competitors from all across the globe, the event was scrutinised for its lax German security, improper background checks and non-existent checkpoints that allowed 8 Palestinians, dressed as athletes to scale a fence and enter the Olympic Village with AKM assault rifles, pistols and grenades.
Their target; the Israeli team. After taking killing two athletes and taking 9 hostages, the Black September group demanded the release of 234 prisoners held in Israeli prisons and two German red Army Faction founders. Their demands were not with the response that there would be no negotiations.
Several rescue attempts failed with the attacker’s fast losing patience and subsequently slaughtering their hostages using rifles and grenades. Five of the attackers were killed with the other three captured. The athlete’s innocent slaughter, the unjust security measures, government disputes and after-effect on world sport would change the world forever.
Dec 8, 1980
Murder of John Lennon
The murder of John Lennon saw the whole world in mourning. A man who inspired, enlightened and touched the lives of so many was shot by Mark David Chapman.
What makes the murder more haunting is that Lennon had stooped to sign an album for Chapman and a number of fans outside the Dakota hotel earlier that day. A photographer unknowingly immortalised their meeting.
Lennon arrived back to the hotel late that night in order to say goodnight to his son. The Dakota’s doorman and a nearby cab driver had noticed Chapman lurking by the archway but failed to act. Lennon acknowledged Chapman as he passed under the archway and a second later, Chapman shot five rounds.
Two missed, whilst three proved fatal and Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at the Roosevelt Hospital. The murder shone a spotlight across all areas of celebrity security, personal protection and the unpredictable nature of fans as well as enemies. Chapman was sentenced to 20-years-to-life but the impact that his actions had on the world are still felt to this day.
Nov 7, 2000
Millennium Dome raid
What would have been the biggest robbery in history, it is a plot that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Hollywood film. If successful, The Millennium Dome raid would have resulted in a haul of £350 million worth of diamonds courtesy of the De Beers diamond exhibition.
A local London gang including Lee Wenham, William Cockram and Raymond Betson among others planned to steal a number of diamond jewels due to be on display at the iconic Millennium dome. Considered to be the most valuable gems in the world, the plotters planned to escape on a speedboat across the Thames.
However, the gang had been under surveillance by the Flying Squad of the Metropolitan Police for roles in a number of other robbery attempts. Codenamed ‘Operation Magician’, over 200 officers played their part in capturing the robbers. Using sledgehammers and nail guns, the gang were just 12 inches from their payday.
All members of the gang were captured and sentenced.
Sept 11, 2001
9/11 Terrorist Attack
Ask anyone and many can remember where and what they were doing on this fateful day. A series of coordinated events carried about by the Islamic terrorist group al-Qaeda saw them hijack four passenger planes and fly them into landmarks.
Two planes hit the North and south buildings of the World Trade Centre complex with one flying into Pentagon and the fourth crashing in a field. In total almost 3,000 people died on the day of the attacks including all 227 civilians and the 19 hijackers on the four flights.
The event sparked a War on Terror, a restricting of security and heightened threat levels as the USA, its government, its people and indeed the world came to terms with what had happened. How armed men could hijack planes undetected highlighted security breaches of the highest kind and whilst conspiracies remain, the loss of life is something that can never be replaced.
News International Phone Hacking Scandal
One of the biggest breaches of personal security in recent times involves multi-media giants News International and the renowned phone hacking scandal.
Employees and journalists from News International, such as the now defunct News of the Wold newspaper publication, are accused of hacking the personal phone call conversations in the pursuit of public stories.
Rupert Murdoch, Chairman of News Corporation, has admitted a cover-up to hide the scale and extent of the phone hackings.
From celebrities and politicians, to 7/7 bombing victims and the relatives of the deceased, the controversy highlights one of the biggest and indeed, most public, invasions of privacy and human rights. Police bribery and exerting improper influence have seen some of the Media, Political and Lawful figures stand down and summoned as the investigation continues.