Hatton Garden: Safety deposit box heist 'may have netted the thieves millions'
Thieves broke into the vault of a safety deposit box firm in the heart of London's diamond and jewellery district over the Bank Holiday weekend and stole the contents of more than 300 boxes stored inside.
Officers said the gang broke into Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd from a lift shaft using heavy cutting equipment. They then opened about half of the 600 safety deposit boxes inside.
Locals claimed an alarm at the site was triggered but when private security guards checked the building nothing unusual was noticed, which allowed the thieves to continue unhindered for an extended period of time.
Police were alerted to the theft yesterday when staff returned to work after the Easter break.
A Scotland Yard source said the exact number of boxes broken open was still unclear.
"We are still trying to establish exactly what has been stolen and who the losers are. It was chaos inside," the source said.
Detectives and forensic officers continued to work inside the vault last night while other officers visited local business owners requesting shop CCTV footage.
The safe deposit firm is used by many jewellery dealers to store gems. "No dealer would be foolish to leave all their stock in one place but even if they left a fraction of the uncut and semi-polished diamonds and others stones in a single box the value could run into millions for one box alone," one London diamond dealer said last night.
Insurers confirmed it would be some time before the true extent of the losses were known. On its website, Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd said it was founded in 1954 "making it one of the first companies in the UK to offer safe deposit boxes".
The directors of the company, Manish and Mahendra Bavishi, were unavailable for comment last night. The site was targeted in 2003, when cash and valuables worth about £1.5million were stolen after a suspect emptied safety deposit boxes inside the vault while posing as a customer.