Monday 27 March 2017

Kim begged for her life as thieves stole €10m worth of jewellery in Paris heist

Reality star was tied up and put in bathtub during robbery suspected of being linked to the notorious Pink Panther jewel raid network, reports Henry Samuel in Paris

TV personality Kim Kardashian West. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)
TV personality Kim Kardashian West. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Henry Samuel

Kim Kardashian West begged for her life as robbers wearing ski masks and police uniforms burst into her luxury Paris flat in the early hours of yesterday and put a gun to her head as they stole more than €10m worth of jewellery.

The reality television star thought she was going to be killed as the barrel of a handgun was placed to her temple and she pleaded with the men not to shoot her for the sake of her two children.

The scene outside the ‘No Address Hotel’ in Paris yesterday. THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images
The scene outside the ‘No Address Hotel’ in Paris yesterday. THOMAS SAMSON/AFP/Getty Images

"She begged them to let her live and said she had babies at home," a source close to Mrs West said. "She thought they were for sure going to kill her. Then they wrapped her mouth in tape and put her in the bathtub."

The thieves also bound her hands and feet before taking a jewel box containing valuables worth €7m, and a ring worth nearly €3m.

As they did so, three other members of the gang waited outside the door to the flat. They had gained entry by forcing the night porter at gunpoint to open the door at 2.30am.

They also took two of Mrs West's mobile phones containing a treasure trove of private information relating to her and other celebrities.

Read more: Kim Kardashian had gun pointed at her temple by men dressed as police officers during multi-million euro robbery in Paris

The gang may have escaped via a tunnel network in the apartment complex usually used by visiting celebrities to avoid photographers. They were believed to have fled on bicycles and Mrs West was later able to free herself and raise the alarm. A spokesman said she was "badly shaken but physically unharmed".

During the city's fashion week, she was staying at Hotel de Pourtales, a 19th-century neo-Renaissance mansion used as a discreet bolt hole by stars including Leonardo DiCaprio, Prince, Madonna, and Brad Pitt, which has several secret entrances and a small number of apartments that can cost €15,000 a night.

It is close to high-end shopping streets and known locally as the "No Address Hotel" because it is not listed anywhere and reservations are made by word of mouth.

Kim Kardashian West pictured at Paris Fashion Week on Sunday. Her necklace is believed to be among the stolen items. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)
Kim Kardashian West pictured at Paris Fashion Week on Sunday. Her necklace is believed to be among the stolen items. (Photo by Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images)

Questions were raised over Mrs West's security and whether the gang could have received information that Mrs West was on her own. Her bodyguard, Pascal Duvier, who is never far from her side, had gone out with her sisters Kourtney and Kendall to protect them at a nightclub. The sisters were staying at the nearby Peninsula Hotel.

Mrs West gave a statement to police then left Paris immediately on a private jet. She was said to have been "hysterical" immediately after the incident. A family friend said: "She's very upset and couldn't wait to leave Paris.

"She got robbed of her jewellery but doesn't care. She is just happy to be alive. She has never been in a more frightening situation. She still can't believe it happened. It will take her a very long time to feel safe again."

Mrs West later arrived in New York with more than a dozen bodyguards. She was met by her husband Kanye West. The musician had been in the middle of a concert in New York when news of the robbery reached him and he left the stage quickly, saying he had a "family emergency".

According to 'Forbes' magazine, Mrs West (35) is worth more than €40m, having risen to fame through her reality television series 'Keeping Up With The Kardashians', and amassing wealth through public appearances and endorsements.

There was speculation that the notorious Pink Panther jewel gang could be behind the robbery. Its members are mostly from Serbia and Montenegro and have been blamed for a string of high-profile heists since 1984 worth more than $400m.

Read more: James Corden slams people for trolling Kim Kardashian after being robbed at gunpoint in Paris

They earned their nickname after a 2003 London robbery when a thief hid a diamond in a pot of beauty cream, similar to the plot of one of the 'Pink Panther' films.

The group pulled off one of their most spectacular heists in December 2013, when they walked away with up to €85m worth of goods after entering the Harry Winston jewellers in central Paris disguised as women. Pointing guns at terrified staff, the men emptied the shop's safes and display cases in less than 20 minutes, unobserved by passers-by on the exclusive Avenue Montaigne.

Unlike major organised crime groups, such as the Sicilian Mafia, police say the Pink Panthers have no clear organisational structure and are instead broken down into small, mobile units.

They will usually make a dramatic entrance, trashing stores and brandishing weapons, before vanishing with gems in satchels lined with toilet paper to prevent scratching.

Prison

When one member is arrested, another takes his place. They have a penchant for luxury watches, which are easier to sell than unique pieces of jewellery, but investigators admit they do not know the full scope of their crime network.

Police from countries as far apart as Japan, the United States and Switzerland met to share photos, fingerprints and insights, hoping for breakthroughs in their cases.

A number of Pink Panther suspects have been arrested over the years, and 40 are in prison in various countries, but police say they are not close to dismantling the whole group.

"They go into prison, then they come out. It never ends," said Andre Muhlberger, head of public safety in Monaco.

Irish Independent

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