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13 Years Since De Beers Diamonds Raid at the Millennium Dome

Millenium Dome

November sees the 13th anniversary of the famous raid at the Millennium Dome in London, when a gang sought to steel the priceless treasures featuring in the De Beers Diamond Exhibition being held there, including the Millennium Star worth an estimated £200 million alone.  The Millennium Star was the centrepiece of an amazing and rare collection, which also featured a further 11 blue diamonds including the Heart of Eternity, a 27.64 carat diamond classed as Fancy Vivid Blue in colour.

The gang consisted of William Cockram, Raymond Betson, Lee Wenham and Aldo Ciarrocchi who had planned to escape via speedboat on the Thames after completing the robbery.  However the Flying Squad, the Metropolitan Police Specialist Crime and Operations Section, were already monitoring the movements of some of the gang members, following their involvement in a number of attempted robberies of security vehicles.  Due to the nature of the operation it would be one of the biggest of its kind conducted by the police, known as Operation Magician.

Following crucial information received by the police, surveillance would also confirm the presence of the gang members at the Dome on 1 September 2000.  Their subsequent visits to the exhibition were always conducted at high tide, and members were also observed obtaining video footage within the Dome.  The police took steps to replace the De Beers diamonds with replicas as more pieces of the scale of the planned raid began to emerge.  Terry Millman was identified as another member whose involvement centred around obtaining the speedboat used in the raid, as the visits to the exhibition became increasingly frequent.

The Police identified and alerted De Beers and the Dome of a number of potential dates that the raid may take place on, these focussed on the tide level patterns of the Thames, and two dates supplied would see attempts aborted by the gang.  The first the result of a problem with the speedboat, and the second following the realisation that the tide was too low. The second aborted attempt took place the day before the actual raid, at which time the police had taken the move to replace the staff at the Dome with undercover armed officers and surveillance officers.  As the raid began, four of the gang members were seen in a JCB digger which they were to use to break through the fencing and side of the Dome building.  Armed with nail guns and sledgehammers and attempting to break the glass encasing the De Beers diamonds, smoke bombs were also used by the gang when the police stepped in to halt the raid.  Arrests also involved a suspect on the getaway speedboat and another who they believed had been monitoring the radio frequencies used by the police.

The trial took place over 3 months and resulted in the members being found guilty with sentences ranging from 4 to 18 years being received, Terry Millman had passed away prior to the trial.

One of De Beers blue diamonds, which had featured in the Dome Exhibition, went on to be sold for £4.2 million at the Sotheby’s Auction in Hong Kong.

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