Armed robbery in Portsmouth was like something out of ’50s film

Bob Poore was crossing Edinburgh Road at this point when he was attacked.
Bob Poore was crossing Edinburgh Road at this point when he was attacked.
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No doubt you will remember those classic black and white detective films from the 1950s and ’60s, many starring Jack Hawkins and John Mills. Someone with the money gets knocked on the head and the robbers make a quick getaway.

Well, this scenario happened for real on the streets of Portsmouth back in 1932. My correspondent, the former police fireman and sergeant Eddie Wallace, told me what happened. It was reported in The Evening News of the time.

About 4pm on the afternoon of April 25, 1932, ex-constable Bob Poore, then a bank messenger for Lloyds Bank, Commercial Road, plus a clerk, was given the task of delivering £23,477 to the Post Office on the corner of Stanhope Road, a short distance from the bank.

As they crossed Edinburgh Road from Barclays Bank corner, three men leapt from a stolen saloon car parked outside the Central Hotel on the opposite corner.

They were all armed with clubs and one of the men hit Poore over the head, sending him sprawling. One of the men snatched the money bag.

They jumped back into the car and escaped down Edinburgh Road.

Poore, then aged 64, managed to get to his feet, give chase and jump on to the running board of the speeding car. He was hit again and he fell into the road unconscious.

A lorry driver who saw the attack joined the pursuit towards the naval barracks in Queen Street, but the car was going too fast and the lorry driver lost it near HMS Vernon’s main gate.

With only one road on and off Portsea Island at that time, a road block was set up at Portsbridge, but to no avail. The car was found six weeks later 100 yards from Albert Road police station. No fingerprints were discovered. It was a well-planned operation.

It was later found that two of the men had remained in Portsmouth in accommodation in Unicorn Road. They were arrested at the house on May 2. The remaining man escaped to London by train. There he was arrested for another crime.

There were many witnesses to Bob Poore’s bravery who gave evidence at the trial held at Winchester Assizes.

The robbers also had their own ‘witnesses’ who claimed they were elsewhere at the time of the offence. The jury found them all guilty and they were sentenced to five, four and three years’ penal servitude respectively (hard labour) plus 15 strokes of the birch.

The money, at today’s values, was £2.5m. It was never found and it is thought the men lived a life of luxury when released.