A group of six criminals have finally been brought to justice for perpetrating the biggest heist in London's history. Authorities secured convictions relating to a robbery of diamonds, gold, and other valuables over Easter weekend last year, after almost a year of investigating the case.
There is some discrepancy in the value of the gold and jewelry stolen. The Associated Press (AP) listed the value at £14 million ($20 million), but this seems to be a typo. Other sources list the total haul at the much higher price of £200 million ($286 million)!
The judge in the case, Christopher Kinch of of the Woolwich Crown Court, said, "the burglary stands in a class of its own in the scale of the ambition, the detail of the planning, the level of preparation and the organization of the team carrying it out."
The group of sophisticated criminals were rather elderly. The youngest in the group was 49; the oldest was 77. The latter actually suffered a stroke in jail and is in ill health.
The six men were sentenced to 7-year sentences; this punishment seems a bit light given that they committed the biggest diamond heist in the history of the legendary Hatton Garden diamond district in London, and in the entire history of the city!
Hatton Garden has been the site of major dealings in precious gems and diamonds for at least 500 years.
How Did They Do It?
By choosing the Easter weekend to commit their crime, the group not only had ample time to raid the central storage of safe deposit boxes, but also guaranteed that a great deal of valuables would be sitting there waiting for them. This is because diamond and jewelry traders in London often move their inventory from their nearby shops in the local business area to the safe deposit boxes as an added security measure. In this case that proved to be an unfortunate decision.
The planning of the heist was elaborate, of course. The safe deposit boxes resided in a vault, the Hatton Garden Safety Deposit Ltd. building, with doors protected by about 2 meters (18 inches) of concrete. The perpetrators must have used special equipment to do so after rappelling down a shaft from the building's roof, according to theories.
By starting a fire underground the Friday prior to the holiday, the thieves created the right diversion to throw emergency staff off their trail. This also knocked out the alarm system, allowing them to conduct their nefarious business without bringing attention to their activities.
It is believed that more than 70 safe deposit boxes were looted in the process.
Luckily, on the second day of the holiday weekend, a different alarm was triggered that forced the thieves to abort their mission early. Otherwise they would have enjoyed another 2 days of pilfering. This change of plans left over 500 safe deposit boxes unharmed. It is estimated that £1.5 billion ($2.145 billion) worth of diamonds lay inside these untouched storage units.
Some of the most valuable jewels stolen were believed to be worth £500,000 ($715,000) individually.
Despite justice being served, it remains to be seen where the stolen diamonds ended up.