Know what most men in their 60s and 70s don't do? Decide to rob a bank. And yet, in 2015, eight elderly men almost pulled off the biggest jewelry heist in British history, known as The Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Box Robbery. This was no small job, and required both heavy lifting and extreme cleverness, yet these old men very nearly got away with it. Some of the facts about the great Hatton Garden Heist are enough to leave you speechless.
Not only is this one of the few elderly British jewel heist examples in history, it's also the one with the biggest score. The deposit they were breaking into was heavily guarded for a reason, and these men managed to smuggle out millions and millions of dollars in jewels and cash. You might think of old men robbing jewels as just plain silly, but they cleaned out 73 boxes before escaping.
Whether you see these old men as the protagonists in the story, or as the antagonists, it's hard to deny the whole thing seems like something from fiction. But that just makes the Hatton Garden jewelry robbery all the more intriguing.
One of the things that makes this heist so unusual and infamous is the ages of the people who carried it out. Of the eight men involved, all but one of the men were over the age of 50, and the majority were over 60. Terry Perkins was 67, John "Kenny" Collins was 75, Daniel Jones was 61, William "Billy the Fish" Lincoln was 60, Carl Wood was 59, and Hugh Doyle was 49, and 'Guvnor' Brian Reader was 76. The other thief, only known as Basil, does not have a known age.
Reader - the oldest and the original mastermind behind the scheme - was enjoying his retirement at the time of the heist. Although most of the men had a rather shady past, people who knew them described them as harmless, friendly, and kind; not at all the sort of people you'd expect to rob a jewelry deposit. This facade of mild old age actually played a major part in how they were able to manage the job.
So how many valuables were in the score? Well, it was the biggest jewel heist in England's history. Some reports estimate about £40 million in jewels was lifted, others say about £7 million in valuables was taken. Plus there was a whole mess of cash that was taken as well. In the end, the crew cracked open all the safety deposit boxes they could out of the roughly thousand inside the vault. It came to 73 boxes before they had to run, and this was enough to total £200 million worth of valuables, gems, and cash, according to some sources.
While the whole event sounds pretty "cool," the fact is it had real, lasting damage on the bank, as well as the people who had things stored there. This wasn't just cash they were stealing, but actual, real valuables, including a few objects that are utterly irreplaceable and historically relevant.
Many of the deposit boxes contained diamonds and gems from jewel traders in the area, all of whom took major losses to their businesses. One man was an an Orthodox Jewish diamond dealer, whose family had escaped Nazi Germany. They'd sewn diamonds into their clothing in order to preserve some of their family's valuables, and the diamonds were then stored in Hatton Garden. Those same diamonds were stolen and never recovered. Another box belonged to an Indian family who was saving gold jewelry for a dowry for their daughter. Without the jewelry, they feared for their child's future. In other words, this heist hurt a lot of people, not just the bank.
There were no signs of breaking and entering at the bank, and the front door had not been breached by force. So, how did they manage to get inside? The police said it did not look like an inside job, so they had to have tricked their way into the building. And that is precisely what happened.
No one ever looks twice at an aging maintenance man or janitor. They seem harmless, and given the age of these men, they probably didn't seem capable of doing something so criminal. It was because of this, as well as clever planning, the men were able to just walk into the building disguised as municipal workers. They wore reflective yellow vests that said "gas" on the back, hard hats, and white surgical masks to keep their identities hidden. Basil simply stayed in the building after people had gone home, and then let the rest of the men in through the fire escape.