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Heathrow Airport seizures: from spider swarms to Uranium bars

Following the National Crime Agency’s announcement this week of a £4 million gold seizure at Heathrow Airport, South West Londoner has compiled a list of some of the other notable and bizarre recent confiscations at the airport.

The NCA discovered the illicit gold back in June 2019 during a layover at Heathrow on a flight that had recently departed the Cayman Islands, due to fly onward to Switzerland.

Some of the 104kgs of gold uncovered had been smelted into the shape of hearts having originally been transported to the Caymans via private jet from Venezuela.

In collaboration with authorities in the Caymans, the NCA were able to establish a link between the gold and South American drug cartels.

Investigative work confirmed that the riches were being transported through an elaborate web of false paperwork, thought to have been originally intended to conceal the gold from the eyes of Venezuelan officials.

So here are some of the other strange items that have been seized at Heathrow Airport:


Widely reported at the time, several metal bars with trace amounts of uranium were discovered by Border Force at Heathrow in December.

There remains a great deal of uncertainty about the seizure which took place following the landing of a passenger flight in London from Oman.

Police and academics alike were quick to play down any risk to the public after the discovery of the radioactive element in a package full of scrap metal.

Scotland Yard concluded that the amount of contaminated material was extremely small and therefore did not represent a danger.

Outside observers noted however that the uranium, originating from Pakistan, must have been deliberately hidden as it was carefully infused in bars of various metals to throw off the scent of border agents.

Whilst the intention behind the package is still unknown, authorities discovered it was due to be delivered to the premises of an Iranian business based in the UK.

Reuters reported in January that a man in his 60s had been arrested on suspicion of a terror offence in connection with the package, subsequently being released on bail.

Parrot eggs

According to, in the early 2010s, border agents stopped a man passing through Heathrow Airport wearing a suspicious vest.

After a brief search, it was discovered that the man was harbouring 40 rare and endangered parrot eggs, concealing them within his specially made clothing.

Some of the eggs were those of the endangered Blue Headed Macaw, a highly prized species of parrot with a total wild population estimated between 1000-2500.

Border Force were quick to incubate the eggs with the majority managing to hatch.

The birds were then given to zoos around the UK to be properly cared for.

170 kilos of heroin

According to a press release by UK Border Force, 170 kilos of heroin was prevented from entering the UK following a seizure at Heathrow in 2020.

The vast amount of the Class A drug was estimated to have street value of £8.5 million having been hidden in commercial boxes of fruits and nuts.

Border Force used new high tech search equipment to find the heroin which was packaged in envelopes lodged within the walls of the seized cardboard boxes.

Found in a freight consignment, each box contained around 270 grams of heroin.

Endangered iguanas

Back in 2014, custom officials successfully seized 13 endangered iguanas concealed inside an item of luggage.

The reptiles were uncovered following a routine custom check at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 and were due to fly to Dusseldorf.

Each animal had been carefully wrapped in a sock with 12 of the 13 creatures surviving a long flight from the Bahamas.

The creatures were San Salvador Rock Iguanas, an endangered species controlled under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).

Two people were later arrested on suspicion of importation offences following the discovery.

A thousand rare spiders

A British man was caught at Heathrow attempting to smuggle 1000 rare spiders individually boxed in his suitcase.

Amongst the spiders were various species of venomous tarantula.

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