Former England footballer Jamie Redknapp has discovered that his ancestor was responsible for one of the biggest robberies to ever take place in the UK.
The 47-year-old was appearing on a TV programme titled DNA Journey on Wednesday alongside friend and ex-cricketer Freddie Flintoff when he was told of the startling news.
Redknapp’s second cousin six times removed William, born in 1803, was a customs officer, a job which enabled him to act as the middle man between his work colleagues and a money lender.
And while his role allowed him to put money away for those close to him, the biggest revelation was that he stole £15,000 from the Bank of England in Liverpool.
Although that does not seem like a huge amount now, it is the equivalent of £2.5m in the modern day.
After being told of his ancestral infamy, Redknapp said: “William, that’s my sons middle name, I might have to change that.”
Redknapp was informed that news of the bank robbery travelled as far as the USA and India, such was the magnitude of the crime.
“I’m not sure how to break this to you but it’s not good news,” Jamie said when relaying the story to his dad Harry and mum Sandra.
“So one of our ancestors, our family member, he was a loan shark on the docks, he masterminded one of Britain’s biggest ever robberies. He took £2.5 million and ran off with it.”
William travelled to Croydon after carrying out the robbery and sent a letter with a postmark from the town in a bid to confuse police. By the time authorities discovered the evidence he had already escaped to the Channel Islands. William returned years later for his daughter’s wedding, but there was no record of him ever being caught.
“You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family,” joked Redknapp.
Meanwhile, Flintoff found out on the show that his great grandfather fought in the Battle of the Somme. Seven days of heavy shelling led him to suffer Shell Shock.
Flintoff also learnt that his ancestor had stolen cars and filed for bankruptcy, something which resonated with him. “[Given] my own battles with mental health issues, I know what it’s like, I find myself feeling for him a lot more,” he said.