'Grandpa gang' guilty of biggest burglary in English history

Thu Jan 14, 2016 12:38pm EST
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By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Three men were found guilty on Thursday over the largest burglary in English legal history, a daring multi-million pound raid on a safe-deposit business in London's jewelry district led by pensioners who had spent a life in crime.

In a plot three years in the planning, the gang broke into the vault of the Hatton Garden Safety Deposit building during the long Easter holiday weekend last year.

They entered an elevator shaft and climbed down to the vault where they used heavy equipment to drill through a thick concrete wall. Initially thwarted, they returned the following day and ransacked 73 deposit boxes, stealing jewels, gold and cash worth 14 million pounds ($20 million).

Only about a third of that has been recovered, including some which was hidden under headstones in a London graveyard.

The combined age of those involved was about 500, with the youngest 42 while two were in their 70s. Brian Reader, the oldest at 76 and one of the ringleaders, got to the scene of the crime on a bus using his senior citizen pass entitling him to free travel.

Reader was no stranger to such crimes and had been jailed in the past over a notorious 1983 heist at the Brink's-Mat high security vault at Heathrow Airport when 26 million pounds worth of gold bars was stolen.

The audacious nature of the raid also rekindled memories of other renowned crimes such as the Great Train Robbery of 1963, when a 12-member gang ambushed a Royal Mail night train, a heist immortalized in several films making those involved famous.

While a lawyer representing one of the gang suggested the Hatton Garden raid could be made into the movie "Bad Grandpas", detectives said the gang might be old but they were dangerous men, with a string of convictions for armed robbery.   Continued...

A police forensic officer enters a safe deposit building on Hatton Garden in central London April 7, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall