The Hatton Garden Jewelry Heist
There are stories of jewelry heists that date back to the looting of ancient tombs. Many exciting Hollywood movies have been made about gold and diamonds being stolen. Some of the dramatic stories are based on true events and others are fictional. Sometimes the criminals of such heists are caught and the stolen property is recovered. In other cases, the criminals are caught, but the booty is never found. Other scenarios have the criminals escape and live long and happy lives on tropical islands and other beautiful places that offer tax-free banking.
A heist that has yet to be made into a film has been in the news recently. It took place during the Easter Bank Holiday weekend of April 3rd, 2015 in London, England. The heist took place in Hatton Garden, which is known as the jewelry district of London and diamond trading center. Hatton Garden is the location of the headquarters of world-renowned diamond company, De Beers and is where Laurence Graff first opened a jewelry shop in 1962. Underneath the streets of Hatton Garden lies a network of tunnels and vaults. It is one of these; Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd., which was targeted after employees had finished work on the evening of 2nd April.
The thieves must have made detailed plans for the heist. They used a disabled communal lift shaft, forced open the metal shutters and used a power concrete drill to bore a hole measuring only 18 inches wide and 10 inches high through the 2-feet thick vault wall. Then, around 72 safety deposit boxes were emptied. The criminals did not leave the building until the next morning. The team of 4-6 people then returned to the vault on the night of 4th April and stayed until the next morning, when they left with wheelie bins and made a getaway in a white van. They were disguised as gas workers and were wearing high-visibility vests.
In the early hours of 3rd April, just after midnight, an alarm went off, but the police did not respond because it was graded to no response necessary by an operator. An investigation was undertaken to determine why there was no response. It is thought that the building security guard saw no sign of forced entry from the main street entrance, so decided that nothing was wrong. The building was not investigated until the business owners alerted police on the morning of April 7th after returning from the holiday to find that the vault had been plundered.
It is possible that the Hatton Garden heist was have been carried out by the same thieves who broke into a bank vault in Germany in 2013 and stole the contents of over 200 security deposit boxes from the Volksbank in Steglitz.
Victims of the theft were both gem and jewelry traders and members of the public. The items stolen from the safety deposit boxes include gemstones, such as diamonds, along with cash, gold, jewelry and other personal items. Some of the owners of the deposit boxes were not insured and now face an uncertain future. The estimated value of the theft is over a hundred million dollars. As the news broke, anxious safe deposit owners waited to hear whether their belongings had been stolen. Many gemstone traders expressed great relief when they were informed that their property remained in the vault.
At the time this article was published, the police were considering suspects but were yet to make arrests. We know that the Hatton Garden thieves got away with the contents of the security boxes; only time will tell whether they will get away with the heist.
- First Published: April-30-2015
- Last Updated: April-11-2018
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