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Gang who stole £1.5m worth of watches from Selfridges while wearing burkas convicted

Robbers carried out 10 smash and grab raids at luxury stores including Prada, Jimmy Choo, Alexander McQueen and Selfridges.

BY KASHMIRA GANDER

Members of a gang of “smash and grab” robbers, whose string of operations included a £1.5million raid at London’s Selfridges department store while dressed in burkas, have been convicted according to police.

Four gang members were found guilty of taking part in the raids at Kingston Crown Court on Friday, while the five others had previously pleaded guilty to their involvement.

The gang were responsible for 10 raids at luxury stores, including two at Prada in the capital’s upmarket Old Bond Street in October and November 2013 when they forced open the shutters and stole £20,000 worth of designer handbags.

Months later in March 2014, they broke into a Jimmy Choo shoe store and stole £22,000 worth of handbags, while in November 2007 they entered an Alexander McQueen warehouse in Islington, north London, and seized laptops, clothing and handbags in a robbery amounting to £50,000.

Their most lucrative operation was at the world-famous Selfridges store on Oxford Street in June 2013, when gang members armed with sledgehammers and disguised in burkas forced their way in and stole £1.5milllion worth of goods, Scotland Yard said.

Reece Dunford, 31, from Essex, who was nicknamed “untouchable”, took part in every robbery, and had established a reputation for handling high-value stolen goods and selling them on. His clients included Hatton Garden jeweller Yair Cohen, 71, of Hackney.

Police arrested him after he and a hand-picked team of four people armed with axes and sledge hammers targeted the Mappin and Webb jewellers in the City of London in April last year. The team made away with £300,000 worth of Rolex watches before they were tracked down by police.

It was this arrest that revealed the extent of the gang’s activities and their connections to 10 incidents dating back to 2007.

Investigating officer, Detective Constable Simon Davison of the Flying Squad, said: "These smash and grabs were aggressive. Sometimes, the robbers threatened innocent people with sledgehammers and axes in order to get to the goods.

Dunford pleaded guilty to seven counts of conspiracy to handle stolen goods, one count of conspiracy to rob, two counts of conspiracy to burgle and one count of conspiracy to produce Class B drugs.

Hollie Dowding, 25, of Waltham Abbey, Essex, who was Dunford’s girlfriend according to The Guardian, pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to handle stolen goods.

Boz Burbridge, 31, of Camden, David Mays, 33, of Bexley, and Danny St Luce, 29, of Islington, all pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to rob.

Yair Cohen, 71, of Hackney, was found guilty of three counts of handling stolen goods, one count of converting criminal property and one count of money laundering and another.

Rusudan Kritcheli, 49, from Hackney was found guilty of converting criminal property and one count of money laundering

Vincent Kamara, 28, of Camden, and Patrick Spencer O'Brien, 23, from Islington were both found guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery.

The nine defendants will be sentenced at the end of the month.

Additional reporting by PA

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