It was eight years ago today when John ‘Goldfinger’ Palmer was shot and killed at his home in Brentwood, Essex by an unknown hitman.
John Edward Palmer was a gangster and former market trader and gold dealer, involved in various criminal activities including mortgage and timeshare fraud.
The police believed that much of his alleged £300 million fortune was the result of swindles, violence, racketeering and money laundering. Palmer owned a complex network of 122 companies, many offshore in the Isle of Man, Madeira and the British Virgin Islands, as well as 60 offshore bank accounts.
Palmer was born in Solihull, Warwickshire, one of seven children. Reportedly dyslexic, Palmer left school at 15 and joined his brother Malcolm in a roof tiling business and also sold paraffin from “the back of a lorry”. He married Marnie J. A. Ryan in 1975 in Bristol.
He ran a gold and jewellery dealing company, Scadlynn Ltd, in Bedminster, Bristol with business partners Garth Victor Chappell and Terence Edward James Patch. Palmer and Chappell had been arrested in 1980 when they worked together selling furniture. The two men were charged with obtaining credit on furniture by providing false references, with Palmer receiving a six-month suspended prison sentence.
In 1985, following the November 1983 Brink’s-Mat robbery, Chappell and Patch of Scadlynn Ltd were arrested for their involvement in melting down £26 million worth of gold from the robbery to try to pass it off as legitimate. Two days after armed robbers Brian Robinson and Micky McAvoy were jailed, Chappell withdrew £348,000 from the company’s accounts. Throughout their trial, a total of £1.1 million had been withdrawn.
During the raids, one of the suspects refused to confirm what they had been melting that morning. It was revealed that the company had been processing millions of pounds’ worth of gold, but claimed it was gold they had purchased themselves. The company’s books stated that they were selling the melted gold for virtually the same amount as they had purchased it for—which didn’t make sense, unless the records were false. Confiscated documents also showed that the company had been evading tax, and were ordered for pay £80,000 in unpaid tax.
Palmer evaded arrest at the time, after fleeing to Tenerife with his family just days prior to his company being raided and its directors arrested. His family returned to England, whilst he sold his remaining assets back home and set up a timeshare business at Island Village, near Playa de las Américas. He attempted to move to Brazil after Spain signed an extradition treaty with the UK, but he was arrested and his entry refused as he had travelled on an expired passport. Deported back to England, he was forced to face trial.
Despite Palmer admitting to melting down gold bars from the robbery in his garden, he was acquitted during the trial in 1987 after claiming that he wasn’t aware they were stolen. Chappell was sentenced to ten years in the earlier trial.
He was reported by The Independent in 1993 as being subject to an asset-freezing Mareva Injunction gained by Brink’s-Mat from the High Court of Justice, enabling investigators to track his substantial financial resources. He later paid out £360,000 to Lloyd’s the insurers as a result of a civil action brought against him, but continued to plead his innocence in the 1987 robbery and in 1999 claimed the authorities were persecuting him. For his connection to the Brink’s-Mat robbery, Palmer acquired the sobriquet of ‘Goldfinger’.
In 2001, he defended himself after sacking his legal team in one of the longest fraud trials in British legal history. He was found guilty “of masterminding the largest timeshare fraud on record” and jailed for eight years. It is reported that he swindled 20,000 people out of £30 million, but attempts by the Crown to confiscate this profit were later stopped in a court hearing. Sentenced to 8 years, he served just over half of this term. His fortune at the time of his conviction was estimated at about £300 million, but Palmer was declared bankrupt in 2005 with debts of £3.9m.
In 2007, he was arrested on charges including fraud. Reportedly, he had been able to continue his criminal activities during his incarceration, following his 2001 conviction. In 2009, after two years without charge in a high security Spanish jail, he was released on bail, but was required to report to court authorities every two weeks.
In 2015, it was alleged by The Times from leaked Operation Tiberius files, that Palmer was protected from arrest and investigation by a clique of high-ranking corrupt Metropolitan Police officers. Palmer’s companions were reportedly once detained in possession of a silenced Uzi submachine gun and 380 rounds of ammunition.
Palmer was murdered on 24th June 2015 at the age of 64 in his gated home of South Weald, near Brentwood, Essex by gunshot wounds to the chest. The fact he had been shot 6 times was only revealed during a post-mortem as he had had open-heart surgery which the wounds were mistaken for. It was later revealed that at the time of his death, Palmer faced charges in Spain for fraud, firearm possession and money laundering. It was only after his death that it was revealed that in addition to his activities in Spain, Palmer also opened the first Russian timeshare company in the 1990s. It was suggested that he had secret service connections, but lost the Russian business to rivals.
According to a special documentary broadcast by the BBC presented by broadcaster Roger Cook reveals that since 1999 police had run an intelligence operation on Palmer from the RAF Spadeadam base in Cumbria. Palmer was under electronic surveillance by a secret police intelligence unit for 16 years until his assassination by a hitman in 2015, according to the special BBC television investigation the Serious and Organised Crime Agency (Soca), now the National Crime Agency had gathered intelligence on Palmer in an operation codenamed Alpine because of concerns of corruption in the Metropolitan police.
Following his death, it was revealed Palmer’s partner Christina Ketley remained under police surveillance following reports from Spanish law enforcement agencies that she played a “predominant role” in his criminal empire. Ketley and fellow mistress Saskia Mundinger, who both had children with Palmer, demanded payouts from him in 2005 to “keep them in the lifestyle they became accustomed to”. He also had two daughters with his wife Marnie.
In February 2017, a 50-year-old man was questioned on suspicion of Palmer’s murder. Police said they had questioned a man who was originally from Tyneside although currently living in southern Spain. The man was not arrested but volunteered to be interviewed at a police station in the UK. The force did not specify at which police station he was interviewed. To date no charges have been laid.