Led Zeppelin’s career was an eventful one, to say the least. Full of sex, drugs and rock and roll, there was also violence, tragedy and even a mysterious robbery. One night, on July 29th, 1973, the band were burgled of over $200k in cash by an unknown party. Nearly 50 years later, the crime remains unsolved.
On the night in question, the band were staying at the illustrious Drake Hotel in New York City, and they were about to play the last of a trio of nights at Madison Square Garden. Over the course of the run, the band were filming their iconic concert film The Song Remains the Same. At 7.30pm, the band’s hellraising road manager, Richard Cole, went to check on their hotel safe deposit box, which contained over $200k in cash, only to find it empty, save for five passports.
A great and perplexing crime, Peter Grant, the band’s manager, held an emergency press conference the following day, whilst the band remained in seclusion in their 17th-floor suites, trying to make sense of what had happened in a daze of drugs and alcohol. A thorough police investigation ensued, with the safe’s locks removed for inspection and covered in fingerprint powder. Despite this, the efforts of the authorities proved fruitless.
Officers told the press at the time that Richard Cole had explained that the money was in the box when he opened it at around 11:20am on the Sunday morning, but when he checked it at 7:30pm the next day, all that remained was the five passports. He estimated that between $203,800 and $220,000 was missing.
The detectives assigned to the case asserted that there was no indication that the box had been forced open. They revealed that one key, which was kept by the desk clerk, was needed to remove the box from the safe, and that another, which was in Cole’s possession, was needed to open it.
The pair of Led Zeppelin managers told detectives that they kept the cash at hand because they had “a lot of expenses to pay”.
Unfortunately, the hotel detectives declined to comment on the mystery at greater length. However, Michael Stiller, the establishment’s assistant manager, told the press that the hotel didn’t keep records of the contents of its safety deposit boxes. When asked if the Drake was aware of the value of its contents, Stiller replied definitively: “No, we do not”.
At the time, the police also informed the media that Cole had told them that the money had come from the group’s concerts on their current tour of the country. That evening, the band performed their last performance at Madison Square Gardens, and that was to be it for their US tour, as drugs and exhaustion were starting to take their toll.
“Jimmy (Page) and I just laughed about it,” recalled frontman Robert Plant, who thought that the theft actually “somehow made sense”. Grant, Cole and a hotel Bellman were all questioned in connection with the robbery, as the police believed it was an inside job, but a culprit was never found.
The robbery would fade into the background of the concert film, and be forgotten within their history. It is now just one minor part of the lifespan of one of the world’s biggest rock bands.