It’s one of the most audacious diamond heists in British history: despite CCTV, alarms and security guards, a six-man gang spent the Easter weekend breaking into a vault in London’s Hatton Garden, escaping with the contents of safe-deposit boxes estimated to be worth millions. But how did they get away with it? Declan Lawn takes a journey into Britain’s criminal underworld in search of the secrets behind the job – the creation of the team, the choice of target, the execution of the robbery and the escape plan. Speaking to victims of the crime, he asks what was inside the boxes. As the search for the perpetrators intensifies, how could they dispose of the stolen property?
In April 2015, the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company, an underground safe deposit facility in London’s Hatton Garden area, was burgled. The total stolen may have a value of up to £200 million, the incident has been called the “largest burglary in English legal history.”
The heist was planned and carried out by four elderly men who were experienced thieves, all of whom pleaded guilty and received prison sentences in March 2016. Four other men were also tried on suspicion of involvement; three were found guilty and sent to prison, while the fourth was cleared.
The burglary occurred during a period in which both the Easter Bank Holiday and Passover coincided. The police first announced that the facility had been burgled on 7 April, and reports based on CCTV footage state that the attack on the facility commenced on 2 April. The theft was so significant that the investigation was assigned to the Flying Squad, a branch of the Specialist, Organised & Economic Crime Command within London’s Metropolitan Police Service.
There was no externally visible sign of a forced entry to the premises. It was reported that the burglars had entered the premises through a lift shaft, then drilled through the 50 cm thick vault walls with a Hilti DD350 industrial power drill.
On 8 April, press reports emerged speculating that a major underground fire in nearby Kingsway may have been started to create a diversion as part of the Hatton Garden burglary. The London Fire Brigade later stated that the fire had been caused by an electrical fault, with no sign of arson.
A CCTV recording of the incident was released by the Daily Mirror before the police released it. The video showed people nicknamed by the newspaper as “Mr Ginger, Mr Strong, Mr Montana, The Gent, The Tall Man and The Old Man”.
On 22 April, the police released pictures of the inside of the vault showing damage caused by the burglary, and how the burglars had used holes drilled through the vault’s wall to bypass the main vault door.
On 19 May, the Metropolitan Police announced that nine arrests had been made in connection with their investigation into the raid.
On 1 September 2015, it was announced that the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company had gone into liquidation as the business had become insolvent because “trade dried up” as a result of the robbery.