A sophisticated gang of robbers used crowbars and drills to break into some 70 safe deposit boxes in London’s Hatton Garden jewelry district last weekend, according to a new statement from London police.
Reports say the thieves who broke into Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd. over the holiday weekend may have made off with as much as $300 million, which would rank the theft among the largest in history.
“There is no sign of forced entry to the outside of the building,” Flying Squad Detective Chief Inspector Paul Johnson said in the statement. “The thieves had disabled the communal [elevator] on the second floor and then used the [elevator] shaft to climb down into the basement.”
He continued: “They forced open shutter doors into the basement where Hatton Garden Safety Deposit is [located], then made their way to the vault, where they used a Hilti DD 350 drill to bore holes into the vault wall. The wall is two meters thick and made of reenforced concrete. Once inside they forced open up to 70 safety deposit boxes.”
Johnson called the scene “chaotic,” with the vault covered in dust and debris and “the floor strewn with discarded safety deposit boxes and numerous power tools, including an angle grinder, concrete drills, and crowbars.”
The statement seemed to confirm reports that the vault alarm had sounded the Friday before the burglary and added that is being investigated. According to other reports, the guard on duty took only a cursory look when the alarm sounded, complaining he “wasn’t paid enough” to investigate further.
Some are also talking about links between the burglary and a fire in a nearby tube station.
A joint statement from the British Jewellers’ Association and National Association of Goldsmiths said the theft “could have an immediate and devastating effect on [the] livelihood [of those affected]. We hope the police investigation and subsequent insurance claims procedure will be undertaken as quickly and efficiently as possible so that claims for any losses can be processed and payment made as soon as possible.”
The London Diamond Bourse also issued a statement, with chief operating officer Victoria McKay expressing concern about the robbery’s effect on traders.
“There is a common misconception that all those in the trade are exceptionally wealthy and will be able to absorb losses,” she said. “This is simply not the case, as there are many people in the trade who earn an everyday living in a industry already squeezed by tough market conditions.”