Saturday 1 October 2016

Detectives investigating massive jewellery heist believe up to 70 safe boxes were opened during burglary

Published 08/04/2015 | 13:07

Michael Miller, a jeweller from Knightsbridge, London, who has spoken of his
Michael Miller, a jeweller from Knightsbridge, London, who has spoken of his "extreme shock" over a safe deposit box heist and said he fears that a ?5,000 watch he bought for his son on the day he was born might have been stolen. Photo: Dominic Harris/PA Wire
A police forensics officer enters the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company in London. Photo: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

Detectives investigating a heist on a safe deposit firm believe up to 70 boxes were opened during the burglary.

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A gang of burglars escaped following the raid at Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company in London's famous Hatton Garden jewellery quarter over the Easter weekend before police were alerted yesterday.

The raiders used heavy equipment to break into a vault containing several deposit boxes, mainly used by jewellers and gold dealers.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said today: "This is a slow and painstaking process involving forensic examination, photographing the scene and recovering exhibits in meticulous detail in order to preserve the evidence. Officers anticipate this process to take approximately two days.

"At this stage it is believed that approximately 60-70 safety deposit boxes were opened during the burglary.

"Officers are working closely with Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd to establish the identities of those affected. Police will be contacting victims directly as and when they are identified."

Norman Bean, who said last night that a security guard had told him he "wasn't paid enough" to open up and look inside after he heard an alarm go off at the company on Friday, returned to the deposit building today.

Mr Bean, who has a diamond ring and bracelets stored in one of the vaults, said he was "not happy" about the security.

He said: "I was devastated, I was shaken, I cannot believe it.

"He just said he looked in, it all looked fine and I think he just went and that is it. It must have happened between Friday and Monday."

When asked if the company should have better security, he said: "Of course they should. After 6 o'clock there is no security at all."

Mr Bean said the owners had not apologised to him or spoken to him at all.

He said: "I am very upset. Mine was only a small amount, but it is still a lot to me. It is all my friends' repairs, I lost part of my diamond. I might not have lost it, I will find out this afternoon."

Mr Bean also said his goods in the deposit box were not insured, adding: "That's the problem."

Officers from the Met's Flying Squad, which deals with bank heists and armed robberies, are investigating the incident.

One jeweller spoke of his "extreme shock" today and said he feared that a £5,000 watch he bought for his son on the day he was born might have been stolen.

Michael Miller, a jeweller from Knightsbridge, London, said he "felt sick" at the prospect of losing up to £50,000 of jewellery and watches during the burglary.

He revealed that his goods - like those of many with deposit boxes there - were uninsured.

"I can't believe this has actually happened," he said.

"If you look at their website, they say they are the safest place around. There is a double-door entry and a locked system to go in. You have to go through two doors to get in the place and then get into the vault.

"Most people who work here know us by face.

"I have a collection of watches I was going to give my son and that is irreplaceable.

"I bought an IWC GST Aquatimer on the day my son was born and I was going to give it to him when he turns 18. They don't make them any more."

Mr Miller, who has held a deposit box with the company for almost 10 years, said he heard the thieves had "broken through a wall and got in that way".

The deposit boxes were used by many jewellers in the area to store their stock at the end of the day, and some could be worth £1 million or £2 million each, he added.

Speaking about the security at the company, Mr Miller said he thought guards worked only "limited hours".

Responding to suggestions that a security guard heard an alarm but did not carry out full checks, he said: "I suppose if an alarm did go off, someone should have checked it.

"Usually you go in and open up and do a visual inspection. I came here because I thought it was the best. I am extremely shocked."

Mr Miller said investigators inside had been taking lists of names and box numbers of depositors, and that he had been told another team of police forensics officers was due to arrive.

Uniformed police stood guard inside the door of the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company today as staff and deposit box holders went in and out of the building.

A number of depositors looked anguished at the possibility of their loss.

One man, who asked not to be named, told journalists he had not been given any information by the company and that he was "very disappointed" at what had happened. Another man said he felt "horrible and sick" at the theft.

Press Association

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