The Hatton Garden jewel robbery gang may have struck twice

Robbery tunnel Berliner Volksbank REUTERS/Fabrizio BenschA German police officer looks through the entrance of a tunnel January 17, 2013, dug by thieves in order to enter the safe deposit room of a bank in Berlin. Robbers dug the 100-foot (30 metre) long tunnel, from a nearby underground parking garage into a branch of Berliner Volksbank and stole the contents of several hundred safe-deposit boxes.

Police think they may have some idea who staged the spectacular tunnelling robbery of the Hatton Garden jewellery safe deposit building in London over Easter.

The robbers abseiled down a lift shaft during the long holiday weekend, drilled through 2 metres of concrete, and may have made off with up to £200 million in diamonds, gold, and other gems.

The Times says the same gang may have staged a similar movie-quality robbery in Berlin two years ago:

In January 2013, a gang drilled through 80cm of reinforced concrete to enter the vault of the Volksbank in Steglitz, southwest Berlin. They opened 294 security deposit boxes, stealing diamonds, gold and silver valued at more than €10 million (£8.3 million).

In both cases an “inside man” was suspected and the gang began drilling after the businesses closed for the weekend — and police were not called for two days after an alarm was ignored.

Berliner Volksbank tunnel robbery hatton gardenREUTERS/Fabrizio BenschGeneral view of the entrance to the tunnel that was dug into Berliner Volksbank two years ago.

The owner is in Sudan and has not been seen for ages
Meanwhile, police are still hoping to question the owner of the Hatton garden building — who is in Sudan.

Berliner Volksbank hatton gardenREUTERS/Fabrizio BenschThe branch of Berliner Volksbank in Berlin that may have been hit by the same gang in 2013.

The whereabouts of the owner are a bit of a mystery, according to The Mirror:

Manish Bavishi, 38, was out of the country during the raid and officers are keen to talk to him about how the jewel gang were able to spend two nights plundering his vault.

Although there is no suggestion that the directors and staff have done anything wrong, experts are convinced the thieves had inside knowledge about the building’s layout and security.

A man claiming to be Mr Bavishi’s brother who answered the phone at his home in Harrow, north London, said he had no idea where he was. A second man at the address said Mr Bavishi not been in the UK for around a year.

Residents who live near to the scene of the robbery said there were also some peculiar power cuts in the area about two weeks before the robbery, according to The Evening Standard.

The timeline of the Hatton Garden Robbery

The Hatton Garden Safe Deposit robbery was incredibly well-planned: A gang of up to seven men may have made off with £200 million ($US300 million) in gold, jewels, and diamonds after abseiling down a lift shaft and drilling into the side of a concrete vault.

Over Easter weekend — a four-day holiday during which no business is conducted — the men worked with a 77-pound, £3,500 Hilti DD350 drill to cut through 2 metres of concrete. It took them two and a half days to break into the vault and rifle 72 safety deposit boxes, many of them filled with unregistered, uninsured jewellery from the local diamond trade. It’s not clear how much has been stolen, but lower estimates come in at £60 million. It is likely to be the biggest robbery in UK history.

Hatton garden Berliner Volksbank REUTERS/Fabrizio BenschA composite sketch of a man suspected in the Berlin robbery.

The robbers — nicknamed Mr Ginger, Mr Strong, Mr Montana, The Gent, The Tall Man, Moped Man and The Old Man by The Mirror — even drove away and, the next day, came back to finish the job. They used a white transit van and a moped in the operation.

Although the robbers were professional, they may have left behind certain clues. Most obviously, the raid began exactly four minutes after the vault was locked — suggesting they had inside knowledge. One robber exposed part of his face, and two exposed their hair colours — grey and ginger.

And, despite the fact they had plenty of time, they left behind a bunch of tools and equipment, including that signature heavy-duty drill.

We put together this timeline of exactly how the robbery went down from reports from the BBC and this video obtained by The Mirror, which shows the CCTV view of the door of the Hatton Garden vault.

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January 2013

An unknown gang drills through 80 cm of concrete into the Volksbank in Berlin. They get away with diamonds, gold and silver valued at more than €10 million (£8.3 million), according to The Times.

December 11, 2014

Two £3,500 Hilti DD350 drills and another £63,000 of equipment are stolen from a construction site on Fetter Lane, London, according to The Mirror. Hilti only sells a few hundred units of that type of drill.

Mid-March 2015

Residents report a “peculiar” power cut about two weeks prior to the robbery, according to the Standard.

April 1 (Wednesday) 2015

12.00: An underground fire breaks out in the nearby Holborn neighbourhood and burns for several days. The fire was fuelled by a gas leak, and lasted 36 hours, according to the BBC. There were still problems over the Bank Holiday break. The fire disables the neighbourhood and ties up emergency services for days. John O’Connor, the former head of Scotland Yard’s Flying Squad, tells LBC he believes it is too much of a coincidence. The Met’s helicopter is used to guide firefighters.

April 2 (Thursday) 2015

21.19: Staff at Hatton Garden lock the doors for the weekend.

21.23 Mr Ginger appears and descends to the vault. A few minutes later, three men get out of a white van and follow him with wheelie bins. A man arrives and makes his way downstairs towards the vault. Mr Ginger is wearing latex gloves, a blue jacket, and a black flat cap. He is carrying a black sack.

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21.27: A white Ford Transit van pulls up outside. The men begin dragging wheelie bins into the building.21.30: The Gent arrives. He is dressed in a hard hat, balaclava, a bright yellow jacket with “Gas” on the back, striped socks and brown shoes.
21.31: Mr Strong arrives carrying a steel brace:

21.36 Mr Montana arrives wearing a top that says “Montana 93”. He has a baseball cap and trainers, and a shaved head.

Mr Montana and Mr Strong drag in more wheelie bins.

21.41 The gang drag in an air conditioning system.

April 3 (Good Friday) 2015

00:21: Police at Scotland Yard are informed that the burglar alarm has been triggered. They do not respond.

01.00 (roughly): Mr Ginger is seen above ground briefly.

Hatton garden

07.51: The gang is seen above ground for the first time since the night before. They are bringing up their equipment in stages. It includes a red wrench, bolt cutters, two red tool boxes, a big black bucket, an angle grinder and crowbars.

08:05: First appearance of The Old Man. He has grey hair. Three gang members talk. One is wearing pink trainers.

8.12: The transit van returns and the gang load it up.

10.00: The Holborn fire is finally brought under control.

April 4 (Easter Saturday) 2015

22.17: Mr Ginger returns more than 18 hours after the gang’s first shift in the vault. He is wearing latex gloves and carrying a black sack. He goes downstairs towards the vault. He is later joined by two other men over an hour later.

22.32: The Tall Man appears wearing a flat cap and carrying a blue Nike bag and a red tool box. Only three men appear to have returned to the scene.

April 5 (Easter Sunday) 2015

05.46: The gang begin bringing up more stuff to the surface.

06.01: According to The Mirror, The Old Man makes a mistake as he rests while dragging a bin: “The Old Man leans on the bin, struggling for breath, as he reveals a clear shot of the side of his face.”

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06.12 Moped Man pulls up in the alley. He leaves 20 minutes later.

06.44: Three men get back into the van. They then drive off. The job is done: 72 deposit boxes have been raided.

April 6 (Easter Monday) 2015

Nothing happens.

April 7 (Tuesday) 2015

08.10: Met Flying Squad called to the scene, according to the BBC.

Hatton garden

April 9 (Thursday) 2015
According to ITV, Detective Chief Inspector Paul Johnson of the Flying Squad gives a briefing on what happened inside the vault:

  • The communal lift on the second floor was disabled.
  • They climbed down the lift shaft into the basement.
  • They forced open a set of shutter doors before making their way to the vault.
  • At the vault, the gang used a Hilti DD 350 drill to cut into the vault.
  • The vault is 2 metres thick, made of concrete.
  • The gang left behind numerous power tools.
  • The vault is left in disarray, covered in debris and empty deposit boxes.
  • There was no sign of forced entry from the outside of the building.

April 11 (Saturday) 2015

The BBC reports that police have yet to interview the owner of the building, who is overseas.

April 13 (Monday) 2015

The Holborn fire was not deliberately set, according to London fire commissioner Ron Dobson.

April 14 (Tuesday) 2015

The Mirror reports that owner Manish Bavishi is in Sudan, and hasn’t been seen in about a year.

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