Jewel thieves: Audacious jewellery heist by making off with the loot in wheelie bins

April 13, 2015 3:29 pm

Police have released images from CCTV cameras in an attempt to trace the jewel thieves. Photo / Daily Mirror
 
The truth has emerged of how a gang pulled off an audacious jewellery heist by making off with the loot in wheelie bins.

CCTV footage shows the raiders breaking into a safe deposit box company where they spent two nights drilling through a reinforced concrete wall to reach the vault.

Police issued nine still images from the CCTV cameras yesterday in an attempt to trace the jewel thieves.


They stole an estimated 60 million ($116.6 million) in gems, cash and other valuable items, which they stuffed into wheelie bins before loading them into the back of a Ford Transit van.

The video footage was obtained from two cameras – one positioned on the street and the other by the rear fire exit through which the raiders gained entry to the premises of the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company.

Piecing together more than 120 hours of coverage from the two cameras, detectives have been able to build up a detailed picture of just how the raid was carried out.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Johnson said: “They were highly audacious, entering on two occasions over that weekend. This footage along with other material continues to be evaluated to capture the precise movements of the suspects.”

Police said that 72 of the 999 safe deposit boxes were opened. Of those, seven were empty. Police have so far contacted 42 owners while trying to reach the remaining victims.

It is thought that one member of the gang may have hidden inside the building in order to let others in through a fire exit.

Alternatively, they had assistance from a worker on the premises, home to a number of companies.

The camera outside the fire-exit door shows the first member of the gang – a man dubbed Mr Ginger on account of his red hair – arrive at about 8.20pm on Thursday April 2 local time, just four minutes after staff at the safety deposit company had locked up for the Easter bank holiday.

The men reached the fire exit through an alley that leads from a side street in Hatton Garden, London’s famous jewellery quarter.

But the alley itself is protected by a metal gate and the raiders would have needed a key to get through that, too. Police have said there was no evidence of a forced entry into the Hatton Garden premises. To reach the door they would have also needed a further key to get past a metal gate that led from the rear alley on to the street.

At 8.27pm, a white van pulled up in the side street around the corner from the company’s front door and the gang unloaded wheelie bins from the back of the van.

It is thought the wheelie bins contained power tools including a diamond-tipped drill for boring through the 2m concrete wall and into the basement vault.

The CCTV footage suggests there were at least six members of the gang, given the nicknames Mr Ginger, Mr Montana, the Old Man, the Tall Man, the Gent and Mr Strong, based on physical features or clothing seen in the footage. Mostly, the men hid beneath hats, caps and balaclavas.

The footage suggests they took about 20 minutes on Thursday evening to move tools into the building, taking them down the alley and in through the rear fire exit.
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Johnson of the Metropolitan police Flying Squad speaks to media outside the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd entrance in London last Thursday. Photo / AP
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Johnson of the Metropolitan police Flying Squad speaks to media outside the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd entrance in London last Thursday. Photo / AP

The gang then disabled the lift on the second floor of the communal office building and descended into the lift shaft to reach the basement, where the safety deposit boxes were kept in the company’s vault.

The footage shows the men remained inside the premises for about seven hours.

At just after midnight on Good Friday, they triggered the intruder alarm, but police decided no response was required – a decision that is now under internal investigation.

During the night, the men began their attempt to break into the vault, prising open steel shutters into the company’s offices before beginning the drilling operation.

The footage then shows them emerging into daylight at about 7.50am on Good Friday before getting into the white van and driving off.

They returned to the scene just after 10.15pm on Saturday and went back to work.

The footage then shows them re-emerging at the fire exit at just after 6am on Easter Sunday, struggling with a wheelie bin that is thought to be crammed full of cash and gems stolen from safe deposit boxes. Other wheelie bins were also dragged to the van.

Police have refused to put a value on the stolen goods but estimates say the figure is more than 60 million.

Detectives are investigating a number of specific leads, not least because only a few gangs are capable of pulling off such a crime. It is likely the men have left the country and disposed of the gems.

Given how well planned the raid was, it seems likely that the men had already worked out what to do with the stolen items.

Pink Panthers among gangs capable of such a heist
One outfit thought to be behind the heist is the Pink Panthers gang, which has carried out a number of international jewel raids.

They were given their nickname after a diamond ring they stole from a London jeweller’s was found hidden in a jar of face cream. They had borrowed the idea for concealing the gem from a plotline in the 1975 Peter Sellers film The Return of the Pink Panther.

A leading member of the gang – a Bosnian called Milan Popari – has been on the run since breaking out of a Swiss jail in 2013. He was the third member to be sprung from prison that year.

The Pink Panthers have raided jewellers in Britain, the United Arab Emirates, Japan, Switzerland, France and Monaco.

In Dubai, they used black and white Audi limousines to drive across the polished floors of an upmarket shopping mall, where they smashed the front window of a jewellery store. In Tokyo, they took just 36 seconds to steal 2 million ($3.9 million) worth of gems from a store.

Police in France are investigating whether the gang is behind a 6.4 million gems heist involving two security lorries last month.

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