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London Crime, read lots more about all the big heists, the gangs the geezers and the aftermath in the only factual book that covers them all, London Crime an in-depth look at 1930s-present-day. paperback £7.99 ebook £2.99 see more about it here; https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08429CBT5/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0
This heist is the daddy of them all, bringing together many of the ‘names and faces’ from earlier heists in the book and showing how the London crime scene was made up of many career criminals who worked like a recruitment agency pulling together those that suited the requirements of each job dependent of their skills. I’ve listed the police files that show the heist from the police point of view, the actual robbery as gleaned from various reports and interviews and the aftermath. So some facts will be listed twice to maintain the time lines of the parts.
The police files.
On the 7th April 2015 at 8am the police were called to the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit premises after a robbery had been discovered.
Straight away it was obvious that a professional team had planned and executed the heist and the flying squad were called in.
How had they managed to get a key to the front door of the premises? Could it be an inside job? Once inside the gang had forced open lift doors and climbed down the shaft to the Deposit floor which was below ground level and forced open the lift door shutter into the premises. They deactivated a very sophisticated alarm system, drilled through into the vault and opened 70 of the 999 boxes inside.
A second alarm had been triggered through to the Alarm Company HQ who sent a guard out to investigate. He found the door shut and no sign of forced entry. The company had asked for police to attend but they did not so the guard left and the robbers carried on.
Forensic officers drew a blank as the gang had sprayed the floors and walls with bleach which kills DNA. They had also removed the hard drives from computers linked to the internal CCTV cameras.
Let’s follow the police procedure from now on…
Twenty CID officers were involved and their first breakthrough came from studying the ton of CCTV footage from numerous private systems in shops and businesses around the area.
On 2nd April at 8.20pm a white van pulled up at the kerb some yards away from the Depository. Four men got out, the driver stayed put and drove off. One man obviously aware of the CCTV carries a large bag on his shoulder blocking any view of his face. He has a key to the Depository back door and they all enter. The van’s number plate is traced but is false.
On the morning of Good Friday at 8am the men return to the van from inside the building it has been pulled up to the back doorway and they drive off. They have no loot with them? This surprises the police reviewing the CCTV footage afterwards, why no loot?
On Saturday three return with a package and stay inside until Sunday when they leave with several hold alls and wheelie bins of loot which they load into the van.
Other CCTV shows a white Mercedes with two people sat in it watching the building for several days prior to the break in. This is known to belong to a criminal called Kenny Collins. Using this car which was already known to the police was a mistake. NPR ( number plate recognition) is fed into the street CCTVs and the car is traced to a residence in N1, surveillance is launched and it is found to be Kenny Collin’s house. He is now kept under surveillance. He is known as a lookout and driver in previous robberies.
Collins is identified in the CCTV of the first night of the raid as driving the van, he is with Brian Reader a well known master criminal who was heavily involved in the Brinks Mat heist and acquitted of the murder of PC John Forham. There is no sign of Reader on the second night, the Saturday? The reason becomes clear later when the fact that the drill being used to get through the wall from the lift corridor to the vault did its job as far as the back of the vault wall which was of solid thick steel housing the security boxes. Reader’s research had shown them to be free standing units positioned against the concrete wall which could be pushed over by using a basic builder’s hydraulic joist holder on its side. It broke because the free standing units weren’t free standing they were bolted into the concrete and needed more force to shift them. The job was supposed to finish that night but now to continue they needed a bigger force hydraulic wrench. The team decided to abort the mission. They argue amongst themselves. Collins, Perkins and Jones want to come back with a bigger wrench but Reader, who brought the heist together, will not defer from his one night plan. It would be too dodgy to return.
The gang splits up but Collins, Perkins, Wood and Jones decide to go back and bring the fourth man into the plan with them. This is the man known as ‘Basil’ who the police had trouble identifying, the man with a large bag hiding his face from the outside CCTV, the man with the key and the man seen on internal CCTV disengaging the alarms. An outside light in the back entrance spooks Wood who thinks it will be noticed and he leaves.
The new wrench works and the gang get into the vault and open 70 boxes. They take the loot to Collins house and decide to hide it in a wheelie bin outside as Collins wife is due home. They split it into money, gold and gems on the lounge floor. When they later go to ‘divi’ (divide) it Collins has passed the gems onto his brother in law Bill Lincoln to hide as he hadn’t enough room in his own house, Lincoln has also passed it on as well.
In the meantime, the news has broken about the millions stolen and Reader is back for a cut. Perkins and Collins don’t want to give him any as he wasn’t there the second night. On 1st May the three of them meet at the Castle pub and are filmed by the police as they come to a compromise and then the film is examined by a police lip reader and the name Carl comes up. This is Carl Wood, known to the police and a past accomplice of Terry Perkins. It’s all coming together slowly. All but the mysterious ‘Basil’ person.
The police have bugged Perkins and Collins cars and hear that the major and final ‘divi’ is to take place on the 19th May at Perkin’s daughter’s house as she is away on holiday. The police wait until the divi is underway and swoop on all the houses and offices associated with the gang members. 100 officers are involved. All the suspects are arrested but of ‘Basil’ there is no sign. He had taken his divi on the Saturday night when they left the Depository and was the man brought in to disable the alarms by Reader. He was not known to the rest of the gang.
One third of the total believed stolen was recovered
Reader, Perkins, Jones , Collins and Wood were tried and sentenced.
A month after the trial a review of the CCTV and surveillance material was instigated to try and find ‘Basil’.
It was noted that surveillance teams had watched Collins meet an unknown man on the 17th April and again on the 24th. They had followed this man and taken film and still images of him but who was he?
He lived in a nondescript flat, well positioned for a fast exit by three routes out of the building and he lived ‘off the grid’. No utility bills and so no record of who he was. His name was Michael Seed. He was known to the police but not for anything major and had been quiet for a number of years. The police watched him for two years after the robbery waiting for a mistake. One wasn’t forthcoming but profilers noted that Seed had a particular way of walking that swung his right leg in front of his left at an angle. This tied up with the grainy image of the man with the bag on his shoulder at the depository who had the key.
A warrant was issued and Smeed’s flat raided on the 17th March 2018. Inside was a gold smelter, gold, gems and £150,000 of banknotes. He got ten years.
April 2015, the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company, an underground safe deposit facility in London’s Hatton Garden area, was burgled. The total stolen may have a value of up to £200 million, and the incident has been called the “largest burglary in English legal history.”
The heist was planned and carried out by four elderly men who were experienced thieves, all of whom have pleaded guilty. Four other men are being tried on suspicion of involvement.
The burglary occurred during a period in which both the Easter Bank Holiday and Passover coincided. Being in the Jewish area of Hatton Garden this may well have been taken into consideration with the date planning.
The police first announced it had taken place on 7 April although the crime was started on 2nd April. Were the police keeping quiet whilst they tried to find the gang and spoke to their ‘ grasses’ about it? Why such a period of silence? The MET won’t comment.
There was no external visible sign of forced entry to the premises. Somebody had a key or was a very good lock picker. Once inside the gang abseiled down a lift shaft, drilled through 50cm concrete wall with a Hilti DD350 drill ( £3,000) first off they hit a steel safe back and had to fetch a more powerful drill. Then once in they helped themselves to the contents of 70 safe boxes.
On 8 April, press reports emerged speculating that a major underground fire in nearby Kingsway may have been started to create a diversion as part of the Hatton Garden burglary. The London Fire Brigade later stated that the fire had been caused by an electrical fault, with no sign of arson.
A CCTV recording of the incident was released by the Daily Mirror before the police released it. The video recording showed people nicknamed by the newspaper as “Mr Ginger, Mr Strong, Mr Montana, The Gent, The Tall Man and The Old Man”.
On 22 April, the police released pictures of the inside of the vault showing damage caused by the burglary, and how the burglars had used holes drilled through the vault’s wall to bypass the main vault door.
On 19 May, the Metropolitan Police announced that nine arrests had been made in connection with their investigation into the raid.
On 1 September 2015, it was announced that the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company had gone into liquidation as the business had become insolvent because “trade dried up” as a result of the robbery.
On 1 April 2015, electrical cables under the pavement in Kingsway caught fire, leading to serious disruption in central London. The fire continued for the next two days, with flames shooting out of a manhole cover from a burst gas main, before being extinguished. Several thousand people were evacuated from nearby offices, and several theatres cancelled performances. There was also substantial disruption to telecoms infrastructure. On 8 April, press reports emerged stating that the fire may have been started as part of the burglary.
2 April: late afternoon Hatton Garden Safe Depository lock doors and leave for Easter weekend
2 April: 21:23 ‘Mr Ginger’ descends to the vault, followed by three men pulling wheelie bins
3 April: 00:21 police at Scotland Yard are informed that the burglar alarm has been triggered
3 April: 08:05 gang members talk before going to their van and driving away
4 April: 21:17 ‘Mr Ginger’ goes down into vault, and is later joined by two other men
5 April: 06:10 the gang members drive away from the building
7 April: Scotland Yard state they are aware of the burglary
10 April: The Daily Mirror releases CCTV footage
19 May: The Metropolitan Police announce that they have arrested nine suspects
On 19 May 2015, 76-year-old Brian Reader, who was involved in laundering the proceeds of the Brink’s-Mat robbery, and his 50-year-old son Brian were arrested in connection with the robbery by flying squad officers In November 2015, Carl Wood, William Lincoln, Jon Harbinson and Hugh Doyle were all charged with conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to conceal, convert or transfer criminal property. The theft was described as the “largest burglary in English legal history.”
Carl Wood, William Lincoln and Hugh Doyle were connected to the £14m Hatton Garden jewellery raid, a jury at Woolwich Crown Court decided.
Jon Harbinson – Lincoln’s nephew – was cleared of playing a part in the heist last Easter weekend. He has been set free after eight months in custody.
Four men – Brian Reader, Kenny Collins, Terry Perkins and Daniel Jones – had admitted conspiracy to commit burglary.
Two other people were convicted earlier in connection with criminal property offences.
Another man, known only as “Basil”, who let his co-conspirators into the Hatton Garden building by opening the fire escape from inside is yet to be identified.
The police are offering a £20,000 reward for information leading to his arrest and conviction.
Reviewing lawyer Ed Hall from the Crown Prosecution Service said: “The four main ringleaders, a close-knit group of experienced criminals, some of whom had been involved in other high-value crimes, pleaded guilty after realising the strength of the case against them.
“As a result of this trial, three other men who played significant roles, including the moving and concealing the stolen gold and jewels, have also been convicted.”
It can now be reported that Perkins’ daughter, Terri Robinson, 35, of Sterling Road, Enfield, also faces being jailed. She pleaded guilty to concealing, converting or transferring criminal property.
Her brother-in-law, Brenn Walters, 43, who is also known as Ben Perkins, admitted the same offence.
The Met Police had faced criticism over its handling of the case after it emerged it had not followed procedures after receiving a call from a security firm about an intruder alert at the premises at midnight on Good Friday.
Following the verdict, Det Supt Turner said: “We apologise for not actually attending the alarm. It is quite clear that police should have attended. We have reviewed all our systems and processes.”
The Hatton Garden burglary was unquestionably audacious. It was a crime that required cunning, strength and physical fitness.
The gang responsible switched off most of the alarms and security cameras. They clambered down a lift shaft to get to the vault. They spent hours drilling through concrete. They forced open 73 safety deposit boxes.
But this wasn’t the work of a gang of young, ambitious criminals.
It was the work of a group of men in their 60s and 70s who came from the old school where plots were formed over a pint in a pub on a Friday night.
So why on earth would they bother with such a complicated crime at their age? Why would they take such a risk?
At a time when most people of their age would be contemplating or enjoying their retirement, the Hatton Garden gang had other ideas.
Forget gardening and cruises. They spent around three years plotting a daring raid.
“You can almost picture the joy and excitement that planning would bring,” says David Wilson, professor of criminology at Birmingham City University. “I imagine the more they spoke about it, the more excited they became.
“This was the one last dream job. There is a great deal of excitement in committing this kind of crime. There is a great deal of status attached to it.”
Impossible to resist
The four ringleaders of the Hatton Garden theft all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary.
Brian Reader, Terry Perkins, John (Kenny) Collins and Danny Jones have a combined age of 278.
They all have a criminal record of varying degrees of severity and that is significant in understanding why they found the Hatton Garden plot just impossible to resist.
The Dad’s Army raiders ( age at the time)
Kenny Collins, Danny Jones, Terry Perkins and Brian Reader all admitted their role in planning the raid
Brian Reader, known as The Master, 76
Danny Jones, 60
John (Kenny) Collins, 75
Terry Perkins, 67
William Lincoln, aka Billy the Fish, 60
Hugh Doyle, 48
Carl Wood, 58
Michael Seed, “Basil”, unknown
“The fact that they’re in their 60s and 70s shouldn’t surprise us because they’ve previously engaged in criminal enterprise,” says Prof Wilson.
“This kind of enterprise gives them excitement, makes them feel alive and takes them out of the banality of their everyday lives.”
Most of these men were on many levels your typical group of pensioners.
Brian Reader used a free bus pass. Kenny Collins was the lookout who frustrated others in the gang who said he fell asleep during the raid.
Terry Perkins was a diabetic who took all his medication into the vault with him in case he needed it.
Perkins had also been jailed before for his involvement in another notorious crime back in the 1980s. He was given a sentence of 22 years for his part in the raid on the Security Express Headquarters in east London in 1983. ( see that section in the book)
Also jailed for his role in the Security Express raid was Freddie Foreman. He is now approaching 90 and is reflective about his criminal past but totally understands why the Hatton Garden gang thought they could get away with the burglary.
“If they’d asked me to join them I might have found it hard to say no,” he says.
“Even though my legs aren’t what they used to be, it’s the excitement, the respect you get and it’s the thought of doing one last job.”
And that seems to be fundamental to this particular crime – the idea of one last thrill. Even at their age they just couldn’t resist it.
But their final crime was too ambitious and they were perhaps a bit naive. They underestimated how CCTV and surveillance would ultimately help the police track them down.
Who’s who in the Hatton Garden heist gang and how much do they have to repay?
Brian Reader was known as ‘the Guv’nor’ and was a partner in crime of notorious gangland figure Kenneth Noye – the pair were like ‘chalk and cheese’.
Aged 76 at the time of the robbery, Reader is the oldest of the gang and he even travelled to the robbery on a bus using a pensioner’s ‘Freedom Pass’. One police officer even described him as ‘the last of the gentlemen thieves.’
Under the proceeds of crime act he was told he must pay back £6,644,951, including the sale of his £639,800 home and development land worth £533,000.
Daniel Jones, 58 at the time, was described as an ‘eccentric Walter Mitty’ character during the trial when one of the accused men told of his strange habits.He is one of the two men who actually got through the small hole the gang drilled into the vault and went through safety deposit boxes before handing the loot back through the hole.
He was caught on CCTV wearing an eccentric outfit during the raid, complete with striped trousers, a hi-viz waistcoat, red trainers and a navy baseball cap. He was ordered to hand over £6,649,827 under the proceeds of crime act..
John ‘Kenny’ Collins, 75 at the time, was part of the Islington side of the gang and has a long string of convictions for crimes including robbery, handling stolen goods and fraud dating back to 1961.He was the driver for the gang waited in vehicles outside the safety deposit company on both nights of the Hatton Garden raid and acted as a lookout from a rented office opposite. It was his link to the white Mercedes which was the first step in police tracking down the raiders.He was ordered to pay £7,686,039 under the proceeds of crime act after the court heard he had assets in ‘liquid form’ and property in this jurisdiction and abroad.
William ‘Billy’ Lincoln, 60, was recruited by ringleader John ‘Kenny’ Collins as a trusted family member to control a large part of the loot following the heist. He has a string of convictions for attempted burglary, burglary and attempted theft between 1975 and 1985, but his most recent conviction was for battery in 2013. The married father-of-two was a well known character at the famous Billingsgate fish market where he would buy haddock, kippers, eels and salmon to sell on to friends and family members. He was consequently known as ‘Billy the fish’ . Lincoln was ordered to pay a much smaller £26,898 under the proceeds of crime act for his lesser role in the plot or face another nine months in jail.
Terry Perkins was one of the key players behind the Hatton Garden burglary, Perkins, of Enfield, was told he must pay £6,526,571 under the act. He died in prison shortly afterwards. Exactly 32 years earlier, on April 4 1983, he celebrated his 35th birthday by carrying out an armed robbery on the headquarters of Security Express, on Curtain Road, in Shoreditch.(see earlier in the book) He was part of a gang of masked robbers who made off with £6m in what, at the time, was Britain’s biggest cash robbery.
Perkins was jailed for 22 years at the Old Bailey in 1985, along with John Knight, where they were described as ‘two evil, ruthless men’.
Carl Wood, 58, was a trusted associate of the ringleaders, recruited as an ‘extra pair of hands’ to pull off the heist. Wood grew up in Hackney, has been married to wife Paula for 19 years and has two adult daughters who have children of their own. He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in his early 20s, an inflammatory bowel disease which he claimed often left him bed-ridden and in agony. Wood, 60, of Cheshunt, Hertfordshire, has been ordered to pay back £50,000 under the proceeds of crime act.
Hugh Doyle, 48, was a plumber and trusted friend of John ‘Kenny’ Collins who offered up his yard as an exchange point for the handover of stolen goods between vehicles. He had no part in the raid and made no financial benefit from it. He was fines £367.50 for his ‘general criminal conduct’. One benefit for Doyle was that a long lost son recognised a likeness to old photos and got in touch.
After the Hatton Garden heist an allegation has emerged that the whole thing was financed by ‘a London gang’… the only gang capable of the finance is probably the Adams family who had warned the Hatton Team off a few years earlier when they had originally sought finance for the robbery. Now they, if it was them, put in their own man on the team to keep an eye on it, that man was ‘Basil’ the man the rest of the team didn’t know and who always wore a ginger wig and disguise. He was the man who had the keys to the Hatton Garden building. When the team entered the vault Basil went straight away to one box and took it out of the building with him, unopened. That was all he took although he plundered the jewellery the others had taken at a later meeting a few weeks after. So what was in that one box? Rumour has it that the only way John Palmer could keep alive in the UK when he returned ( see Palmer section) was because he had some major evidence on a major gang and their murders and their involvement in the Brinks Mat heist in which Palmer was a major fence. If anything was to happen to him his partner was to hand that evidence to the Police, it is alleged that evidence was in the box in the Hatton Garden Vault that ‘Basil’ made a bee line for. Draw your own conclusions.
One last observation. Where did the key to the back door of the Depository come from?