DIAMONDS AND SUCH: The Top 5 Most Audacious British Heists Ever Attempted

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Pretty elaborate plans, only to end up caught later on.

LONDON — A jewellery heist that took place in London’s diamond district over the Easter weekend is shaping up to be one of the city’s most spectacular burglaries, a plot of Ocean’s Eleven-esque audacity and daring, resulting in jewellery and cash, estimated to be in the tens of millions of pounds range, being lifted from deposit boxes under an unsuspecting city’s nose.

While Londoners enjoyed the first stirrings of spring and packed out the capital’s parks and pubs under a welcome and rare sun, a gang of thieves were hard at work in the deserted gloom of a safety deposit firm’s premises, tunnelling through walls, abseiling down a lift shaft, and cutting through an 18 inch security door to reach their target, if reports are to be believed.

The thieves triggered an alarm on Good Friday, but a security guard on the scene couldn’t see anything untoward during a cursory look through the window. He told one owner of a safety box, Norman Bean, that he didn’t get paid enough to check properly.

And so, after four days in which the thieves had plenty of time to rummage around, workers returned on Tuesday to find the place plundered. The full scale of their spoils is yet to be established, but it’s thought that over 300 safety deposit boxes were raided and the total cost could run into the tens of millions.

While we wait for more details of the brazen break-in to emerge, here are five more notorious British heists.

1. The Securitas depot robbery, Kent, 2006

The biggest British cash robbery ever saw a gang of men posing as police officers simultaneously kidnap the manager of the Securitas depot in Tonbridge, Kent, as he drove home. His wife and eight-year-old were also kidnaped from their home. All three were taken at gunpoint to the depot where 14 members of staff were tied up. The gang left with £53 million ($79 million) in cash.

Five men were jailed for the crime two years later, but only £21 million has been recovered. The judge said the gang’s “organised banditry” was “meticulously prepared” and “ruthlessly executed.”

2. The failed Millennium Dome diamond heist, London, 2000

Before the O2 in Greenwich became a massive gig venue, it was known as the Millennium Dome and home to a series of exhibitions. For a while it played host to a diamond collection worth around £350 ($520 million), an asset that would prove the world’s biggest haul if robbers could get their hands on it.

One gang tried, smashing through a perimeter fence with JCB diggers, armed with smoke bombs, amnesia gas, sledgehammers, nail guns and a speedboat for a fast getaway up the Thames. Unfortunately for them, the Flying Squad were waiting. They’d been monitoring the criminals for some time and had replaced the jewels with fakes and switched staff for armed police. All the would-be robbers were arrested and most of them headed to jail for some time.

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