It seemed like the perfect crime. Thieves broke into the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Box company and spent the entire Easter weekend leisurely going through the boxes, making off with an estimated $300 million.
The complicated plan worked to perfection. The thieves cut through the roof to gain access to Hatton Garden offices, rappelled down an elevator shaft to the basement, disabled a state-of-the-art security system, stole the hard drive of the CCTV system, and cut through an 18-inch thick metal wall.
Everything worked — except the part where they get away scot free. More than 200 Scotland Yard officers swooped down on the 9 thieves and arrested them, along with at least part of their booty. The crooks were between the ages of 43-76 — three of them were ages 67, 74, and 76 — which makes them something of an “Over the Hill” gang.
The police had come under withering criticism in the tabloids for first, missing an alarm tripped by the thieves on Good Friday, and second, for the halting, unsure manner in which the investigation seemed to be carried out.
During a press conference, the Met said it felt officers had been portrayed as the Keystone Kops, while a relative of a victim said finding some of the haul could actually make things worse for those affected, as it could delay insurance pay-outs.
Thieves used heavy cutting equipment to break into a vault at Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd, where they ransacked about 70 boxes.
The men were arrested in Enfield, east London and Dartford.
Police said bags containing a significant amount of high-value property were recovered at one of the addresses and they were confident some were items stolen during the burglary.
Head of the Met’s Flying Squad, Det Supt Craig Turner, urged victims of the crime to “stay patient”, adding police officers would be in contact with them in order “to restore this property back to its rightful owners”.
He said the investigation had been “complex and exceptional”.
In response to questions about why police did not respond to an alarm that went off at the premises during the time of the heist, Det Supt Turner, said: “We are now in a position to confirm that on this occasion our call handling system and procedures for working with the alarm monitoring companies were not followed.
“Our normal procedures would have resulted in police attending the scene and we apologise that this did not happen.”
There has been no official detail of what was stolen but it is believed jewellery worth up to £200m was taken during the raid.
Cdr Peter Spindler said: “At times we have been portrayed as if we’ve acted like Keystone Kops.
“But I want to reassure you that in the finest traditions of Scotland Yard, these detectives have done their utmost to bring justice for the victims of this callous crime.”
I guess the “finest traditions of Scotland Yard” now include failing to following procedures when an alarm is tripped. Tally Ho!
It would be easy to admire the crooks for their audacity, until you realize there were genuine victims of their crime who lost everything:
A relative of one of the victims said those affected were “probably worse off after this morning’s raids”.
“With the stolen goods vanished, there was pressure on insurance companies to settle quickly to enable holders to trade again,” the relative, who did not want to be identified, said.
“But now, with a whole mess of stuff to sort out, it may drag on for months.
“If batches of the stones were mixed up, it may be impossible to reunite them with their owners.”
Many of the boxes belonged to pensioners who lost their life savings in the heist. Most didn’t carry insurance.
The thieves are apparently non-descript working class types with no known skills in high end robberies. But with a decent plan and a little luck, they managed to carry out what will probably end up being the largest heist in British history.