London’s Metropolitan Police has released CCTV images of three gang members, dressed in fluorescent vests and hard hats, calmly carrying bags and wheeling garbage bins into a high-security storage facility in London’s diamond district.
After two nights of work, they left with the contents of dozens of safe-deposit boxes, in a methodical heist that has fascinated Britain – and put police on the defensive.
The footage shows several men, their faces covered with dust masks, entering and leaving the building repeatedly over the Easter weekend.
Detective chief inspector Paul Johnson said the burglars entered the building late on Thursday, 2nd April and left the next morning. They returned on Saturday night and left Easter Sunday morning.
They climbed down an elevator shaft and drilled through concrete walls 2 meters (6 feet) thick into the vault. They stole the contents of 72 safety deposit boxes, which are used by many local dealers to store jewelry.
Police have not disclosed the actual value of the stolen goods, but has been estimated to be worth at around £200 million.
The force has acknowledged that a burglar alarm at the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit facility was triggered just after midnight on 3rd April, the start of the holiday weekend, but no one was sent to check on it. The crime was not discovered until businesses reopened on Tuesday.
It’s also been suggested that an “inside agent” may have been involved in the audacious jewel and cash heist at a safety deposit vault in central London, a former armed robbery detective said.
Jim Dixie, a former detective for the Metropolitan Police’s armed robbery and other armed crime unit, known as the Flying Squad, said he believed the criminals received help to break into the vault.
The call was recorded and transferred to the police’s Computer Aided Despatch system. A grade was applied to the call that meant no police response was deemed to be required. It said the police were investigating why this grade was applied to the call.
Dixie also said an underground fire in nearby central London’s Holborn, which started in 1st April and burned for 36 hours, could have helped the thieves as it affected electric circuits in central London.
He said: “I’m not saying the suspects had anything to do with it but it must have been a godsend to them because it clearly disrupted the electrics and maybe the alarm systems in the area.”
John O’Connor, former head of Scotland Yard’s armed-robbery squad, said that the thieves appeared professional and well-prepared, but police had been “utterly incompetent” in not answering the alarm call.
Hatton Garden, the center of Britain’s diamond trade, has been hit by several audacious robberies in the past.
In 1987, two armed robbers made off with an estimated 60 million pounds ($90 million at the time) worth of jewels. In 1993, robbers handcuffed shop workers, broke through high-security doors and cracked a safe to steal millions worth of diamonds.