Jewel thieves are known for their cat-like skills and audacity. This sample criminal justice essay explores England’s largest jewel heist at the Hatton Garden.
The Hatton Garden Jewel Heist
November in London, England saw the return of the Hatton Garden jewel heist, the biggest in English jewel heist in history, according to Wilkinson and Hume. The heist targeted the esteemed and long-lived Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd., which has been in existence since “medieval times” (Wilkinson and Hume). During the heist, which is believed to have taken several days, £14 million (roughly equivalent to USD 21 million) in jewelry and cash was stolen from Hatton Garden (Wilkinson and Hume). The heist was performed over the Easter holiday weekend in April of this year, and the four-man crew used an elevator shaft to gain access to the building; they then bored a hole through the six-foot-thick wall that surrounded the basement vault with a diamond tipped drill (Wilkinson and Hume).
Wilkinson and Hume stated that the accused are William Lincoln, 60 years of age, from Bethnal Green in east London; Carl Wood, 60 years of age, from Cheshunt, Hertfordshire; John Harbinson, 42 years of age, Benfleet, Essex; and Hugh Doyle, 48 years of age, of Enfield, north London (Dodd and Grierson). Lincoln, Wood, and Harbinson have been charged with conspiracy to burgle and conspiracy to conceal, convert, or transfer property. Doyle is additionally charged with the crime of the actual concealment, converting, or transferring criminal property – in this case, the jewels and the cash. All four men are pleading not guilty to all charges in the case (Wilkinson and Hume). The vault contained 996 safe deposit boxes and 500 or more were currently being used at the time of the burglary. Local jewelry stores used the vault as their “company safes,” and 40 other individuals also had property stolen from the vault (Dodd and Grierson).
The trial is being held at Woolwich Crown Court, located at 2 Belmarsh Road in London. Woolwich is a high-security courtroom and also commonly tries London terrorist cases. The prosecutor in the case, one Philip Evans, stated that the ringleaders in the Hatton Garden heist had already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle in the case (Wilkinson and Hume). The men who have already pleaded guilty are John Collins, 74, of Islington, north London; Terrence Perkins, 67, of Enfield; Daniel Jones, 58, of Enfield; and Brian Reader, 76, of Dartford, Kent – three of these men are pensioners (Dodd and Grierson).
The jury in the case consists of six men and six women who will finally judge Doyle, Lincoln, Harrison, and Wood; Evans noted that “these four ringleaders and organizers, although senior in years, brought with them a great deal of experience in planning and executing sophisticated and serious acquisitive crime not dissimilar to this” (as cited in Wilkinson and Hume). Evans indicated that this high level of experience would lead the men to only involve others who were of criminal minds and who could carry out a heist of this magnitude (as cited in Wilkinson and Hume).
Planning the perfect crime
According to Wilkinson and Hume, the planning stages of the burglary were almost three years in length, with the group meeting regularly in a London Islington pub. While no one understands why a person would commit a violent act or crime, internet searches confirmed one of the involved men had begun researching drills in 2012, and these searches continued through 2014, evolving into YouTube tutorials on concrete boring (Wilkinson and Hume). Jones was in possession of Forensics for Dummies, and Reader’s nickname was “The Guv’nor” or “The Master” as he was referred to by his co-conspirators (Wilkinson and Hume). A search of Reader’s home turned up a diamond tester, a diamond gauge, diamond magazines, and a book on the diamond purchasing and selling underworld – in addition to a scarf he was seen wearing at Hatton Garden, Ltd. in April of 2014 (Wilkinson and Hume).
During the heist, the thieves gained access to 73 safe deposit boxes, only 44 of which were being used at the time; the media grossly overestimated the initial heist value at £200 million (roughly equal to USD 300 million) immediately following the heist, but that amount has never been confirmed. One-third of the property has been recovered as of November, and Evans noted that the burglary was only partially successful; the first night, April 2nd, did not gain the thieves access to the vault and they were forced to return on April 4th with more equipment (Wilkinson and Hume).
According to Evans, the lower value goods had all been recovered, but many loose, precious stones were still missing, including platinum, gold, and other precious metal bars, ingots, and coins (Dodd and Grierson). Collins scouted Hatton Garden prior to the burglary and was also the lookout and van driver following the heist (Dodd and Grierson). Various pubs were used during planning, including the Castle pub in Islington, and Jones held regular meetings on Friday nights for “extensive planning” (Dodd and Grierson).
Following the heist, Jones buried some stolen goods in a cemetery in Edmonton, and additional incriminating evidence such as face masks, a drill, and cash was found at his property during investigative searching (Dodd and Grierson). Perkins also scouted Hatton Garden and a search at his home resulted in jewelry, cash (including “a quantity” of euros, blue overalls, and five pairs of white fabric gloves) (Dodd and Grierson).
Evans noted that Internet searches were used as incriminating evidence during the investigation, including “meaningful searches for the specific drill which was used over the Easter weekend 2015 to drill through the vault wall” (Dodd and Grierson). A police recording of conversations in Collin’s Mercedes and Perkins’ Citroen Saxo were also heard by the jury during the court proceedings (Dodd and Grierson). Billing data from the conspirators’ phones and contact numbers and text content were also among the evidence being used to prosecute the conspirators in the Hatton Garden case.
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Issues with the Hatton Garden Jewel Heist
The issue that kept the men from gaining access to the vault at first was a set of metal cabinets bolted to the floor on the inside of the vault; the men were unprepared and had to call in additional resources in order to get through them (Peachey). Following this discovery, two “senior members of the gang” went to Twickenham to purchase a pump to uproot the metal cabinets; they returned to try again on April 4th and were successful this time. Little did the burglars know, the men were under surveillance since two weeks into the heist planning, and were being recorded by police – various boasting and comments were recorded, including the increasing nervousness of members of the team (Peachey).
The defendants in the case wore cardigans, tracksuits, and jeans to the first day of the trial, looking like a group of friends on a golfing holiday, according to Pettifor. John Collins is extremely hard of hearing and had to be helped by Paul Reader, his co-defendant (Pettifor). All four men arrived at Woolwich accompanied by police helicopters and an armed convoy of prison vans; Prosecutor Ed Hall stated that the men were arrested following a long, involved police operation known as Operation Spire (Pettifor). There were no bail applications, and all eight conspirators were remanded into custody to appear at Southwark Crown Court in London; a ninth man was arrested in Essex on May 21st, 2015 in relation to the burglary, as well (Pettifor).
Most criminals come from a relatively desperate socioeconomic environment but not these thieves. According to The Telegraph, Hugh Doyle is a 48-year-old plumber from Enfield, who had a passionate interest in flying and yachting (Evans and Walton). He was working for Associated Response Heating and Plumbing (his own company based out of his home) when he was arrested; Doyle is originally from Ireland and is a married father of two children (Evans and Walton). His home was among the 12 addresses raided in May spanning London and Kent.
Neighbors agree that Doyle was “popular, helpful” and friendly; elderly neighbors were “shocked” hear that he might be involved in the Hatton Garden jewel heist (Evans and Walton).
Doyle has been described as a helpful person, a good man, although one neighbor noted that a plumbing job he did for them “wasn’t very well done” noting that “the water started coming through” (Evans and Walton).
William Lincoln was previously a lorry driver in London but had to quit two years prior to the Hatton Garden jewel and cash heist due to problems with his health. Lincoln walks with a limp. Peachey (2015) noted that Carl Wood and Brian Reader both “walked off job” on the night before the big heist; Wood claimed to have left the job of his own volition after finding that a previously unlocked fire door had been locked again. Wood “lost his nerve” most likely because of the mechanical issues that plagued the heist on the first night, when they were unsuccessful at breaking into the vault (Peachey).
Security cameras on the street outside the Hatton Garden Safety Deposit in London showed Wood walking off alone (Peachey). The remaining members of the team finally forced their way into the vault. In court, the defense stated:
“Mr. Wood broke off all contact with his partners-in-crime” and no jewels were found at Wood’s home (Peachey).
John Harbinson is a taxi driver in London and a father to three children; he drove the getaway van because of his expert driving ability. Several of the men involved in the heist, including Brian Reader and Paul Reader are believed to be related to each other, and one of the men hid his share of the loot in various cemetery plots – one of which he tried to conceal from police after he was caught.
Most famous jewel heist in British history
Although the Hatton Garden Heist is estimated to be the largest in British history, there have been several other heists of note, beginning with the Securitas depot robbery (which handled “used cash” for the Bank of England) in Tonbridge, Kent on February 21, 2006 (The Telegraph). In the Securitas heist, men pretending to be police officers kidnapped the manager of the depot, one Colin Dixon, and another group kidnapped his wife and son, aged eight (The Telegraph).
The group threatened harm to Dixon’s family if Dixon failed to cooperate, and all three were then taken to the Securitas depot where the entire staff was tied up (14 people) (The Telegraph). The manager cooperated with the men and they made off with over £53 million in cash; several people have been arrested since the robbery and near £20 million of the money has been recovered (The Telegraph).
Graff Jeweller’s of London was relieved of £40, 000, 000 in diamonds and expensive jewelry on August 6th, 2009 (The Telegraph). A female staff member was taken hostage by the two robbers who were dressed in suits, and they fired shots off as they fled, changing vehicles over and over in order to escape (The Telegraph). In 2010, Soloman Beyene, Clinton Mogg, and Aman Kasssaye were convicted of conspiracy to rob, kidnapping, and possessing a gun (a violation of the country’s gun control laws) by a jury (The Telegraph).
A fourth man, Craig Calderwood claimed he had taken part in the raid only because the perpetrators threatened to kill him and his mother if he did not (The Telegraph). Evidence such as a left-behind mobile phone and a sawn-off shotgun with cartridges helped convict the men, who collided with a black taxi while fleeing the scene (Davies). The men behind the robbery are thought to be powerful members of England’s crime underworld and believed to still be at large.
The Knightbridge Safe Deposit Centre robbery was designed by Valerio Viccei, and occurred in July of 1986 – the sum the robbers gained through the heist was at least £40,000,000 (The Telegraph). Viccei escaped Britain but was arrested when he returned to ship his Ferrari Testarossa out of the country; he was eventually deported to Italy to serve out his remaining sentence and died in April of 2000 during a shoot-out with police while on day release from prison (The Telegraph). The Northern Bank robbery in Belfast, Norther Ireland netted £26,400,000 and was perpetrated by a gang of armed men in police uniforms who captured two staff members while holding their families at gunpoint (The Telegraph). Most of the money has not been recovered to date (The Telegraph). Victims suffered great loss because victim compensation programs did not reimburse their money.
The Brinks Mat Robbery in Heathrow was conducted in 1983, with a total of three tons of gold bullion worth £26 million (The Telegraph). The thieves stole the bullion from a warehouse near Heathrow airport, which they thought contained £3 million in cash; the police caught the thieves when large amounts of money were moved through a Bristol bank and a family connection was then discovered in relation to a security guard at the warehouse (The Telegraph). The 6,000 gold bars have never been found (The Telegraph). Graff Jewelers was robbed previously in 2003 to the tune of £23 million; the Midland Bank Clearing Center in Manchester was robbed of £6.6 million in cash by the driver of the security van with transported its money; The Security Express robbery in London (also on Easter) netted £6 million in 1983; and the Great Train robbery of 1963 and the Baker Street robbery in London netted £6,000,000 and £1,500,000 million respectively (The Telegraph).
Davies, Caroline. “Four Robbers Convicted over £40m Graff Diamond Heist.” The Guardian. The Guardian News and Media Limited, 2015. Web. 6 December 2015.
Dodd, Vikram, and Grierson, Jamie. “Hatton Garden Heist was ‘largest burglary in English Legal History.” The Guardian. The Guardian News and Media Limited, 2015. Web. 6 December 2015.
Evans, Martin, and Walton, Gregory. “Plumber with Pilot’s Licence Arrested over Hatton Garden Heist.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited, 2015. Web. 6 December 2015.
Peachey, Paul. “Hatton Garden Heist: Burglars Carl Wood and Brian Read ‘Walked off Job on Eve of Heist’.” The Independent. The Independent, 2015. Web. 6 December 2015.
Pettifor, Tom. “Hatton Garden Heist: Dad’s Army of Defendants Pictured after First Court Appearance.” Mirror. Mirror Online, 2015. Web. 6 December 2015.
The Telegraph. “The 10 Biggest British Heists.” The Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group Limited, 2015. Web. 6 December 2015.
Wilkinson, David, and Hume, Tim. “$21M Hatton Garden Jewel Heist Biggest ‘in English Legal History,’ Lawyer Says.” CNN. Cable News Network, 2015. Web. 6 December 2015.