The Great New Zealand Robbery

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Scott Bainbridge
In Print

It should be remembered as New Zealand's answer to Britain's Great Train Robbery, but instead it's been almost completely forgotten.

In the dead of the night, robbers broke into the commission building and made off with an audacious loot equivalent to almost $1 million today. This 1956 heist, which eventually came to be known as the Waterfront Payroll Robbery, was executed with military precision: nobody saw a thing, there was no violence, and the robbers left nothing but a smoking office and an empty safe behind them. The crime was pinned on small-time crook Trevor Nash in a trial that went relatively unnoticed. It wasn't until four years later, when Nash made a brazen prison-escape attempt, that he rose to notoriety as a kind of anti-establishment hero--a man sticking it to the authorities.

To this day, uncertainty remains around whether Nash alone was responsible for the waterfront heist. Could he-cunning as he was-really have pulled it off? Or was it more likely the work of a group of gangsters? And what happened to the money?