The Hatton Garden Heist stands out as one of the most audacious burglaries in British criminal history. Occurring over the Easter weekend in April 2015, a gang of elderly thieves penetrated the underground vault of the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company in London’s diamond district. They made off with an estimated £14 million in cash, jewellery, and precious stones. This meticulously planned operation drew significant media attention due to the age of the culprits and the brazenness of the act.
Background: Hatton Garden is a street and commercial area in the Holborn district of London, renowned for its numerous jewellery and diamond businesses. The Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company was a well-known establishment in the area, housing hundreds of safe deposit boxes, primarily used by local businesses and private individuals to safeguard their valuables.
Planning: The ringleaders of the gang spent months planning the heist. Their extensive preparation included studying the building’s layout, monitoring staff movements, and even purchasing books on drilling and metalwork.
Execution: On the evening of 2 April 2015, the gang gained entry to the building through an elevator shaft. Using heavy-duty drilling equipment, they bored a hole 20 inches deep, 10 inches high, and 18 inches wide into the two-meter-thick concrete wall of the vault.
Once inside, they ransacked 73 safe deposit boxes, filling wheelie bins with a vast assortment of valuables. The entire operation took place over two nights, with the gang returning for a second time after initially struggling with the drill.
The Alarm: Interestingly, an alarm was triggered on the first night of the break-in, alerting the police. However, it was deemed a false alarm, and no patrol was dispatched to investigate. This oversight provided the robbers with a crucial window of opportunity to complete their operation.
Investigation and Arrests: The heist was discovered on 7 April, after the bank holiday weekend. The London Metropolitan Police’s Flying Squad took charge of the investigation, which was dubbed ‘Operation Fidelity’.
Evidence from surveillance cameras, as well as a tip-off from a member of the public, led to the identification and arrest of the gang members. DNA evidence left behind at the scene, including a half-eaten sandwich, also played a crucial role in their capture.
The Culprits: The gang consisted of several career criminals, most of whom were in their 60s and 70s:
- Brian Reader – At 76, he was dubbed the “Mastermind” and was the oldest member of the gang.
- John Collins – Known as “Kenny”, he was responsible for surveillance.
- Daniel Jones – He played a key role in the actual break-in.
- Terry Perkins – Another vital member of the team, he had a history of significant heists.
- Carl Wood and William Lincoln – Both acted as getaway drivers and assisted in transporting the stolen goods.
Trials and Sentences: In March 2016, after a long trial, the main culprits were found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary and concealment of stolen goods. They received prison sentences ranging from six to seven years.
Brian Reader, due to his age and health issues, received a more lenient sentence. Several other individuals were later arrested and charged in connection with the heist, primarily for their roles in attempting to sell the stolen goods.
Aftermath and Legacy: Despite the arrest and incarceration of the gang, only about one-third of the stolen valuables have been recovered. The rest remain missing, leading to speculation about their whereabouts and whether they’ve been sold off in the underground market.
The heist has since become the subject of numerous documentaries, news articles, and even a feature film. The audacity of the crime, combined with the advanced age of the perpetrators, has made it a story of enduring public interest.
The Hatton Garden Heist will long be remembered not just for the scale of the theft, but also for the unique profile of its perpetrators – proving that age is just a number when it comes to audacious criminal endeavours. As investigations continue and the hunt for the missing loot persists, the story of this daring burglary remains very much alive.