Hatton Garden raid was 'biggest burglary in English history' UK court hears
The Hatton Garden raid which saw jewellery and valuables worth an estimated £14 million stolen was the "largest burglary in English legal history", a court has heard.
A gang of thieves carried out the "sophisticated" and meticulously planned break-in over the Easter weekend, this year.
They used a drill to bore a hole 20in (51cm) deep, 10in (25cm) high and 18in (46cm) into the wall of a vault in London's jewellery quarter, before ransacking 73 safety deposit boxes.
"Ringleaders" John "Kenny" Collins, 75, Daniel Jones, 58, Terry Perkins, 67, and Brian Reader, 76, have all already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary at Hatton Garden Safe Deposit.
Four other men are on trial at Woolwich Crown Court in south east London, accused of being involved in the raid.
They are: Carl Wood, 58, of Elderbeck Close, Cheshunt, Hertfordshire; William Lincoln, 60, of Winkley Street, Bethnal Green, east London; and Jon Harbinson, 42, of Beresford Gardens, Benfleet, Essex. The face the same charge of conspiracy to commit burglary between 17 May 2014 and 7.30am on April 5 this year.
A fourth man, Hugh Doyle, 48, of Riverside Gardens, Enfield, north London, is jointly charged with them on one count of conspiracy to conceal, convert or transfer criminal property between 1 January and 19 May, this year.
He also faces an alternative charge of concealing, converting or transferring criminal property between April 1 and May 19, this year.
Prosecutor Philip Evans, told the jury: "This case involves well-publicised events which took place between the April 2 and the April 5 -Easter Weekend - earlier this year.
"Over that weekend a group of men carried out a plan to steal from the basement area of a building in Hatton Garden, the jewellery district of central London.
"You may already be aware that a very substantial quantity of gold, jewellery, precious stones, cash and other items were stolen from the vault in the basement of a building at 88-90 Hatton Garden."
Referring to the four men who have pleaded guilty to their involvement, Mr Evans said: "These four ringleaders and organisers of this conspiracy, although senior in years, brought with them a great deal of experience in planning and executing sophisticated and serious acquisitive crime not dissimilar to this.
"This offence was to be the largest burglary in English legal history.
"Two of these men had also been involved in some of the biggest acquisitive crime of the last century, and the other two had for many years in their earlier lives been involved in serious theft."
Mr Evans continued: "They bought a great deal of experience. This is important for you to understand because it demonstrates that men with that level of experience, engaged in a crime of this complexity and severity, would only have involved those who could be fully trusted.
"Collins knew that he could trust Lincoln, Harbinson and Doyle and could vouch for them to the others.
"Wood, as one of those the Crown says was physically present at the burglary, must have been very trusted by these individuals."
As well as being shown photos of the "ringleaders", jurors also saw pictures of some of the watches and jewellery discovered at their homes after the raid.
A book called "Forensics For Dummies" was found at Jones's house.
Jurors were told that Collins, known to his co-conspirators as "Kenny", acted as the "lookout" on the night of the burglary and drove the van to and from the scene.
He allegedly recruited nephew Lincoln and Harbinson. It is further alleged that Collins recruited Doyle.
The jury heard that Jones was "instrumental in gaining access to the vault".
After the gang's failure on the first night, he and Collins were the ones who set about getting hold of the equipment they needed.
Perkins is said to have been instrumental in the decision to use taxi-driver Harbinson to transport the stolen property,
When Perkins' home was searched, police found jewellery, cash, blue overalls, five pairs of white fabric gloves and a quantity of euros.
Jurors heard that the other men referred to Reader as the "Governor" or the "Master", and that he had been heavily involved in the planning of the burglary.
Searches of his home revealed a book on the diamond underworld, a diamond tester, a diamond gauge, diamond magazines, and a distinctive scarf which he was seen wearing on CCTV at Hatton Garden on the night of April 2.
Although present on the first night of the burglary, Reader did not return for the second, jurors heard.
The court heard that investigations revealed the burglary had been planned - often in the Castle pub in Islington - for a considerable time.
Mr Evans said computer analysis revealed that one of the men involved had been searching for drills on the internet from as early as August 2012.
By May 2014 those searches had "escalated to more meaningful searches for the specific drill" which was used in the raid.
Jurors were told the burglary spanned the weekend, with the raiders returning on April 4 with more equipment, after they were only partially successful on April 2.
Collins of Bletsoe Walk, Islington; Jones of Park Avenue, Enfield; Perkins of Heene Road, Enfield and Reader of Dartford Road, Dartford, are due to be sentenced at a later date.
The court heard that all of the owners of the boxes trade mainly in jewellery, loose precious stones and precious metals.
The raid saw 73 safety deposit boxes broken into, of which 44 were actively used by the tenants at the time.
Jurors were told the 44 boxes were rented by 40 victims, and based on their statements the loss is estimated to be just short of £14 million.
Although some of the goods have been recovered, detectives have been left with "thousands of items of jewellery", including hundreds of gold chains and rings and many paper packages used in the jewellery trade - known as "Brifkas" - containing individual precious stones.
Victims have been able to identify some of their property but a lot still remains unaccounted for.
Mr Evans said: "What has become apparent from this process is that the items which have been recovered are in the main the lower value items that were stolen.
"It appears, for example, that higher value items and many loose precious stones are not among the property recovered."
Other stolen and as yet unrecovered items include a quantity of bullion that amounted to gold, platinum and other precious metal bars, ingots and coins.
Jurors heard a large amount of cash was also taken from the safe deposit boxes and although money was found at the homes of some of the defendants, it is not known whether this was taken in the raid.
Referring to the £14 million estimate, Mr Evans said: "The process of identifying what has been recovered will be a long one and will take many months from now to complete.
"Consequently, any figures you are given now can only be estimates, but based upon such estimates of the losers themselves it is thought, at best, that approximately one third of the value of property taken may have been recovered.
"This leaves, somewhere in the world, a great deal of criminal property from Hatton Garden, which has been concealed, converted or transferred."