The heist in London's diamond-selling district may turn out to be Britain's biggest burglary

By Simon Perry
April 08, 2015 09:55 AM
Dominic Lipinski/AP

Detectives are investigating the theft of millions in jewels and cash from a London safe deposit box center, which could turn out to be the biggest heist in Britain’s history.

Experts believe the stolen haul could be worth as much as $300 million. Authorities think the thieves responsible cut their way into roughly 70 personal safe boxes used by traders in London’s main diamond district, Hatton Garden.

Former detective Roy Ramm told the BBC that the gem raiders at London’s Hatton Garden could have netted hundreds of millions – but the full the total may never be known because “not everybody would declare.”

The thieves had plenty of time to put their plans into action over the Easter holiday weekend as businesses closed the evening of April 2 and didn’t reopen until early on Tuesday. That is when the burglary was reported, Scotland Yard says.

Up to 70 safety deposit boxes may have been raided, police added in a statement Wednesday. Heavy cutting equipment was used to gain access to a vault, detectives said. Some reports suggest the criminals may have rappelled down a lift shaft from there to gain access to the vault where hundreds of safe deposit boxes are stored.

Police called the investigation of the scene a “slow and painstaking process involving forensic examination, photographing the scene and recovering exhibits in meticulous detail in order to preserve the evidence.”

Authorities are working closely with Hatton Garden Safety Deposit Ltd to determine who has been affected. Meanwhile, traders have been gathering to assess the potential damage to their livelihoods. A precious stones wholesaler, Mohammed Shah, says he stored an estimated $160,000 worth of goods in a box.

“I am insured but many people who use these boxes are not. The truth is nobody really knows what is kept in these boxes,” he told The Times.

Scotland Yard is not releasing many details about the incident, except that “enquiries are continuing” and that the crime was discovered at 8:10 a.m. Tuesday.

Anyone with information is asked to call Crimestoppers anonymously at 0800-555-111 or call the investigating team directly at 020 8785 8655.