Friday 23 March 2018

Irishman guilty in €18m jewels heist as police hunt for mystery thief 'Basil'

A handout custody image released by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on January 14, 2016 shows Hugh Doyle who was found guilty of concealing, converting or transferring criminal property in connection with the burglery at Hatton Garden Safety Deposit in April 2015
A handout custody image released by the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on January 14, 2016 shows Hugh Doyle who was found guilty of concealing, converting or transferring criminal property in connection with the burglery at Hatton Garden Safety Deposit in April 2015

Nina Massey

An Irishman has been found guilty of taking part in the biggest burglary in British history as police launch a hunt for another mystery raider.

Dublin-born Hugh Doyle was found guilty of helping to move the massive haul of jewels, cash and precious metals with a value of more than €18m, which were stolen from the Hatton Garden safe in London last April.

Plumber Doyle (48), who hails from Dublin but now lives in Enfield North London, was one of three men found guilty of being involved in the €18m robbery. 

The gang of thieves carried out the "sophisticated" and meticulously planned break-in over the Easter weekend last year.

The raider only known as Basil
The raider only known as Basil

They ransacked 73 boxes at Hatton Garden Safety Deposit Ltd after using a drill to bore a hole into the vault wall.

Meanwhile, detectives investigating the Hatton Garden raid are still hunting a mystery key suspect amid fears he could have fled abroad.

The Metropolitan Police's Flying Squad issued an urgent public appeal for help in tracing the thief, known only as "Basil", and the missing two thirds of the €18m loot.

Valuables worth up to €18m, including gold, diamonds and sapphires, were taken.

Two thirds of them remain unrecovered.

Carl Wood, 58, of Elderbeck Close, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire; and William Lincoln, 60, of Winkley Street, Bethnal Green, east London, were convicted of conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to conceal, convert or transfer criminal property.

Jon Harbinson, 42, of Beresford Gardens, Benfleet, Essex, was cleared of the two offences.

He was accused of transporting goods stolen in the raid to the exchange on May 19.

Harbinson was asked to look after three bags at his home by his uncle Lincoln, having been told they did not contain anything important.

He told jurors he never looked in the bags while they were in his possession. He denied that he had been paid to look after the bags.

Plumber Hugh Doyle, 48, of Riverside Gardens, Enfield, north London, was found guilty of concealing, converting or transferring criminal property between January 1 and May 19 last year.

Speaking after his conviction, Doyle said it was difficult for him to say much ahead of his sentencing.

But he added: "We are considering our position and it is very likely that we will appeal the conviction."

He was readmitted on bail, despite his conviction for being involved in an "extremely significant matter".

None of the men showed any reaction as the verdicts were read.

Another thief, known only as "Basil", let his co-conspirators into the building by opening the fire escape from inside. He has not been identified.

The Met's Flying Squad detectives have renewed their appeal for information about him and offered a £20,000 reward for information that leads to his prosecution and conviction.

Ringleaders John "Kenny" Collins, 75, Daniel Jones, 60, Terry Perkins, 67, and the group's oldest member Brian Reader, 76, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary last September.

It can now also be reported that Perkins's daughter Terri Robinson, 35, of Sterling Road, Enfield, faces being jailed alongside him after she pleaded guilty to concealing, converting or transferring criminal property.

Her brother-in-law Brenn Walters, 43, who is also known as Ben Perkins, also admitted the same offence.

Speaking at a press briefing, Chief Detective Superintendent Tom Manson said the age of the men convicted at trial and those who pleaded - a combined age of 444 - did not take away from their "dangerous crime" history.

After facing criticism for the way the incident was handled, the Met Police apologised for not following procedures when receiving a call about an intruder alert at the premises at midnight on Good Friday.

At the time, Flying Squad detectives rejected the suggestion they were bungling "Keystone Cops".

Detective Superintendent Craig Turner added: "We apologise for not actually attending the alarm. It is quite clear that police should have attended.

"We have reviewed all our systems and processes.

"The key holder did turn up, they would have seen exactly what the police would have seen."

The gang who broke into the vault included participants of some of the most notorious heists of the last century - Reader had been involved in the £26 million gold bullion Brinks Mat robbery, and Perkins was a player in the £6 million Security Express raid.

But despite their experience in acquisitive crime, it took the bungling "Bad Grandpas" two nights - April 2 and April 4 - to breach the vault, and they were caught after covert recording devices planted in their cars captured them boasting of their endeavours.

Jones bragged about the raid in one recording, saying: "The biggest cash robbery in history at the time and now the biggest Tom in the f****** world, that's what they are saying ... and what a book you could write, f****** hell'."

Collins's decision to drive his own white Mercedes on reconnaissance to Hatton Garden is what lead to a breakthrough in the case, when police saw it on CCTV and were able to trace its movements.

The gang stashed the jewellery, gold and cash behind skirting boards at various houses and Jones even buried several bags of jewellery with urns of ashes under memorial stones at a cemetery.

On May 19 Collins, Perkins and Jones met at the Old Wheatsheaf pub in Enfield - next to Doyle's workshop - where the goods were transferred into Collins's car.

From here it was to be amassed in one place, Perkins's daughter Terri Robinson's address, in Sterling Road, Enfield.

However, soon after they arrived at the property with the bags of jewellery, police swooped on them.

Collins, of Bletsoe Walk, Islington; Jones, of Park Avenue, Enfield; Perkins, of Heene Road, Enfield, and Reader, of Dartford Road, Dartford, have been in custody since their arrests.

They are due to be sentenced along with Wood, Lincoln and Doyle by Judge Christopher Kinch QC on March 7.

Robinson and Walters are due to be sentenced on March 31.

In light of their pleas, the prosecution offered no evidence against Laura Perkins and Steven Robinson, who were charged with conspiracy to convert, conceal or transfer criminal property, and converting concealing or transferring criminal property.

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