The gang members, dressed in fluorescent vests and hard hats, calmly carried bags and wheeled garbage bins into a high-security storage facility in London’s diamond district. The robbery has taken a significant toll on several members of London’s Orthodox community, many of whom work in the industry.
After two nights of work, they left with the contents of dozens of safe-deposit boxes, in a methodical heist that has put police on the defensive.
The Daily Mirror newspaper published surveillance-camera images showing the thieves in action. The footage shows several men, their faces covered, entering and leaving the building repeatedly over the weekend.
Detective chief inspector Paul Johnson said the burglars entered the building late on Thursday, April 2, and left the next morning. They returned two nights later, the second night of Pesach.
Markets were closed for the weekend, which also coincided with a legal holiday, and many traders had left large amounts of merchandise in the high-security storage facility.
They climbed down an elevator shaft and drilled through concrete walls 2 meters (6 feet) thick into the vault. They stole the contents of 72 safety deposit boxes.
The force has acknowledged that a burglar alarm at the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit facility was triggered just after midnight on April 3, but no one was sent to check on it. The crime was not discovered until businesses reopened on Tuesday.
John O’Connor, former head of Scotland Yard’s armed-robbery squad, told the BBC that the thieves appeared professional and well-prepared, but police had been “utterly incompetent” in not answering the alarm call.
Hatton Garden, the center of Britain’s diamond trade, has been hit by several audacious robberies in the past.
In 1987, two armed robbers made off with an estimated 60 million pounds ($90 million at the time) worth of jewels. In 1993, robbers handcuffed shop workers, broke through high-security doors and cracked a safe to steal millions worth of diamonds.