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'70 boxes' opened in jewel heist

Detectives investigating a raid on a safe deposit firm in London's famous jewellery quarter believe up to 70 boxes were opened during the burglary.

A gang used heavy equipment to break in to a vault at Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company over the Easter weekend before police were alerted yesterday.

Jewellers spoke of their shock today and raised concerns about security at the building in Hatton Garden, which is described as the centre of London's diamond trade.

Scotland Yard has not commented on the value of items stolen but one jeweller said some of the boxes were worth up to £2 million each.

Michael Miller, from Knightsbridge in London, said he "felt sick" at the prospect of losing up to £50,000 of jewellery and watches which were uninsured.

He also feared that a £5,000 watch he bought for his son on the day he was born might have been stolen.

"I can't believe this has actually happened," he said.

"I have a collection of watches I was going to give my son and that is irreplaceable. I bought an IWC GST Aquatimer on the day my son was born and I was going to give it to him when he turns 18. They don't make them any more."

Mr Miller, who has held a deposit box with the company for almost 10 years, said he heard the thieves had "broken through a wall and got in that way".

The deposit boxes were used by many jewellers in the area to store their stock at the end of the day, and some could be worth £1 million or £2 million each, he added.

Another security box holder, Norman Bean, claimed a security guard had told him he "wasn't paid enough" to open up and look inside after he heard an alarm go off at the company on Friday.

"He just said he looked in, it all looked fine and I think he just went and that is it," Mr Bean said.

When asked if the company should have better security, he replied: "Of course they should. After six o'clock there is no security at all."

Mr Bean said the owners had not apologised to him or spoken to him at all.

"I am very upset. Mine was only a small amount, but it is still a lot to me," he added.

Neil Duttson, a diamond dealer who buys stones for private clients, said tracing any gems stolen in the heist would be nearly impossible.

He said: "Once diamonds have been re-cut and polished there is no geological map.

"I imagine they will be sat on for six months. You can expect some cheap diamonds will be coming on the market soon."

Officers from the Met's Flying Squad, which deals with bank heists and armed robberies, are investigating the incident.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "This is a slow and painstaking process involving forensic examination, photographing the scene and recovering exhibits in meticulous detail in order to preserve the evidence. Officers anticipate this process to take approximately two days.

"At this stage it is believed that approximately 60-70 safety deposit boxes were opened during the burglary.

"Officers are working closely with Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd to establish the identities of those affected. Police will be contacting victims directly as and when they are identified."


From Belfast Telegraph