Thieves plunder £200m in jewellery in textbook heist
Jewels worth up to £200m (€275m) were stolen during a raid on hundreds of safety deposit boxes in Hatton Garden, London's most exclusive jewellery district.
Burglars are believed to have used heavy cutting equipment to cut through the roof before abseiling down a lift shaft to access the vault over the Easter weekend.
They disabled the alarm system, leaving them four days to plunder around 300 boxes in the vault over the bank holiday.
Former Flying Squad chief Roy Ramm said he "would not be surprised" if the stolen gems were worth £200m, although he said the figure would probably never be declared in full.
He told BBC Radio 4's 'Today' programme: "There's a sort of old-fashioned audacity about it.
"The amount of money and the goods that are taken is never fully revealed... and there's a good chance that not everybody would declare.
"I would not be surprised, given where this one is in Hatton Garden, if £200m is around about the amount stolen."
Scotland Yard said officers were called to the scene at about 8.10am on Tuesday.
A source said: "The thieves tunnelled their way through one wall and then through another into the building's lift shaft.
"Then they used ropes to abseil down the shaft to the basement and smashed their way through a false wall into the vault."
Jewellers, who use the safes to store their stock during long weekends, fear a vast amount of diamonds, watches and cash have been taken.
Among the most valuable items feared to have been stolen is a half-cut aqua diamond worth £500,000 (€690,000).
The raid is understood to have taken place at Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd at 88-90 Hatton Garden.
It is thought the burglary was only discovered on Tuesday morning as staff returned to work following the bank holiday weekend.
With much of the area being deserted for Easter, the raiders would have had plenty of time to gain entry to the secure premises.
Although the alarm sounded on Friday, no action was taken as the front and back doors of the building appeared to be secure.
A source at the safe deposit company said that a member of staff checked the alarm but gave the all-clear.
It is understood that the main caretaker, who would have been likely to call the police, was not informed about the alarm.
It was also reported that there is no CCTV footage of the theft because the gang stole the system's hard drive, which was stored nearby, suggesting some level of insider knowledge.
Several people are said to have keys to the main entrance of the building because its lavatories are used by nearby shops during business hours.
Mohammed Shah, a precious stones wholesaler, said that he had about £100,000 (€140,000) worth of gems in a box.
On its website, Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd said it was founded in 1954 "making it one of the first companies in the UK to offer safe deposit boxes."
It also claims to be "currently one of London's most successful and leading safe deposit companies aiming to provide our clients a secure and cost-effective solution to store and protect important and irreplaceable personal belongings".
The raid mirrors the basic plot of the film 'Sexy Beast', starring Ben Kingsley and Ray Winstone, in which a gang used heavy cutting equipment to break into the safe deposit vault of a bank over a bank holiday weekend. (© Daily Telegraph London)