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Hatton Garden raid was largest burglary in English legal history, court told

Published 23/11/2015

Four men are facing trial over the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company raid
Four men are facing trial over the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company raid

The Hatton Garden raid which saw jewellery and valuables worth about £14 million stolen was the "largest burglary in English legal history", a court has heard.

A gang of thieves carried out the "sophisticated" and meticulously planned break-in over the Easter weekend this year.

John "Kenny" Collins, 75, Daniel Jones, 58, Terry Perkins, 67, and Brian Reader, 76, have all already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary at Hatton Garden Safe Deposit.

Four other men are on trial at Woolwich Crown Court accused of being involved in the raid.

Three of them - Carl Wood, 58, of Elderbeck Close, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire; William Lincoln, 60, of Winkley Street, Bethnal Green, east London; and Jon Harbinson, 42, of Beresford Gardens, Benfleet, Essex - face the same charge of conspiracy to commit burglary between May 17 last year and 7.30am on April 5 this year.

A fourth man, Hugh Doyle, 48, of Riverside Gardens, Enfield, north London, is jointly charged with them on one count of conspiracy to conceal, convert or transfer criminal property between January 1 and May 19 this year. He also faces an alternative charge of concealing, converting or transferring criminal property between April 1 and May 19.

Jurors heard of another thief, known only as "Basil", who was in the vault on the night of the burglary and let his co-conspirators into the building by opening the fire escape from inside. He has not been identified.

Prosecutor Philip Evans told the jury "a very substantial quantity of gold, jewellery, precious stones, cash and other items were stolen from the vault in the basement of a building at 88-90 Hatton Garden".

Referring to the men who have already pleaded guilty, he said: "These four ringleaders and organisers of this conspiracy, 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.

"This offence was to be the largest burglary in English legal history.

"Two of these men had also been involved in some of the biggest acquisitive crime of the last century, and the other two had for many years in their earlier lives been involved in serious theft."

Mr Evans told jurors the men would only have involved those who could be fully trusted.

As well as being shown photos of the "ringleaders", jurors saw pictures of some of the watches and jewellery discovered at their homes. A book called Forensics For Dummies was found at Jones's house.

Unrecovered items that were taken during the raid include individual precious stones and bullion that amounted to gold, platinum and other precious metal bars, ingots and coins.

The raid saw 73 safety deposit boxes broken into, with 44 rented by 40 victims. Based on their statements the loss is estimated to be just short of £14 million.

Mr Evans said: "What has become apparent from this process is that the items which have been recovered are in the main the lower value items that were stolen.

"It appears, for example, that higher value items and many loose precious stones are not among the property recovered."

Saying that only one third of the estimated £14 million had been recovered, Mr Evans added: "This leaves, somewhere in the world, a great deal of criminal property from Hatton Garden, which has been concealed, converted or transferred."

Jurors were told that Collins, known to co-conspirators as "Kenny", acted as the lookout on the night of the burglary and drove the van to and from the scene.

He allegedly recruited nephew Lincoln and Harbinson. It is alleged that Collins recruited Doyle.

Jones was "instrumental in gaining access to the vault", and after the gang's failure on the first night, he and Collins were said to be the ones who set about getting hold of the equipment they needed.

Perkins is said to have been instrumental in the decision to use taxi driver Harbinson to transport the stolen property.

Jurors heard the other men referred to Reader as the "Governor" or the "Master", and that he had been heavily involved in the planning of the burglary.

Searches of his home revealed a book on the diamond underworld, a diamond tester, a diamond gauge, diamond magazines, and a distinctive scarf seen on CCTV at Hatton Garden on the night of April 2.

Although present on the first night of the burglary, Reader did not return for the second.

Jurors saw 3D images of Hatton Garden Safe Deposit that revealed the damage the burglars caused, including broken doors and gates, and the shutter to the basement lift access which had been prised open.

Jurors heard that a lot of the evidence has come from mobile and landline telephones, and that the gang left no "forensic trace".

Other evidence came from recordings made by electronic devices placed in Collins's white Mercedes and Perkins's Citroen Saxo.

Mr Evans said: "It is clear that from the earliest stages, Hatton Garden was the target. Collins, often with others, visited numerous times to assess the vault's weaknesses."

The court heard the men would often meet a short distance from the jewellery quarter, making plans at The Castle pub on Pentonville Road in Islington, and Scotti's, a nearby cafe. Some also took part in reconnaissance.

Jurors also heard how Reader - recognisable by his striped socks and brown shoes - Jones, Perkins, Collins, allegedly Wood, and the man known as "Basil" entered Hatton Garden Safe Deposit at around 9.20pm on April 2.

The jurors were shown CCTV footage of the men arriving in a white van and unloading tools, bags, metal joists and wheelie bins. T he men used walkie talkies to communicate and their mobile phones were in "radio silence".

Once inside, the men used the lift shaft to access the basement, disabled the alarm and drilled into the vault wall using a drill they had taken with them.

Collins, of Bletsoe Walk, Islington; Jones, of Park Avenue, Enfield; Perkins, of Heene Road, Enfield, and Reader, of Dartford Road, Dartford, are due to be sentenced at a later date.

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