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ON THIS DAY: GRAFF DIAMONDS ROBBERY 6TH AUGUST 2009

Four years ago today, a staggering 40 million pounds worth of jewellery was stolen from Graff Diamonds jewellery store, on New Bond Street, London. Considered the biggest ever gem theft in Britain, the thieves stole a reported 43 pieces of jewellery. A varied selection of bracelets, rings, watches and necklaces were taken with one bracelet estimated to be worth 3.5 million pounds alone. This was not the first time the Graffs New Bond Street premises had been targeted in recent times. Back in 2003 the same jewellery store was robbed by two men that were part of the Pink Panthers, an international jewel thief network. The men stole 47 pieces of jewellery worth an estimated 23 million pounds.

The events of four years ago began when the two robbers got the professional expertise of an unknowing make-up artist. The two men had their appearance changed dramatically, making them look unrecognisable from their true appearance. Latex prosthetics and wigs were applied to the men and even their skin tone was altered to complete the disguise. Apparently the process took the make-up artist four hours in total, who was told it was all being done for a music video. Coincidently, this was also the same professional make-up studio that unknowingly helped disguise some affiliates of the gang that stole 53 million pounds from a depot belonging to Securitas in 2006, Britains largest robbery.
Four years ago today at 4.40pm, the two robbers appeared by taxi at the Graff Diamonds jewellery store in London. Both men were smartly dressed and even though both were wearing leather gloves, the men were allowed entry into the building. The robbers then immediately produced two handguns, threatening the stores staff. At gunpoint they forced shop assistant, Petra Ehnar, to remove the contents of the stores display cabinets. She was then taken hostage and forced onto the street so that the men could get away. Then releasing Petra, one of the men fired a shot from the gun into the air, sparking confusion, then briskly escaping the scene in a blue BMW. The getaway car was dumped in nearby Dover Street, a second gunshot was fired into the ground, and then the men got into a silver Mercedes. The two men changed into a third vehicle on Farm Street, police having no idea of their whereabouts. As the men had such elaborate disguises, CCTV would not pick up their true identities, keeping their presence discreet and everyday looking. Shop assistant Petra later testified that the men would have killed her if she did not co-operate with their demands. The Graff logo was previously laser-inscribed into all of the diamonds stolen along with a Gemological Institute of America identification number.Police investigating the heist established that the robbers had a well thought out plan and probably even had an active market primed for the stolen jewels. All UK airports and ports were provided with all the relevant details of the suspects, but police believed the escape route was prepared well in advance and the men would have already fled the country. The case was investigated by the Barnes Flying Squad and led by Chief Inspector Pam Mace; specialists in armed robberies.
Since none of the jewellery has been recovered, it is estimated that Graff Diamonds owner, Lawrence Graff (72), suffered a loss of around 6.6 million pounds as a consequence of the robbery. The actual value of the stolen items was put at 26 million pounds for insurance purposes.The suspects were caught after police found a pay as you go mobile phone in one of the getaway cars. The robbers had left the car in a rush after crashing into a black cab, forgetting to bring the mobile device, leaving it between the hand-brake and the drivers seat. Police were then able to track the suspects movements, through numbers stored on the phone.
On August 20th2009, Craig Calderwood (26) and Solomun Beyene (24) were the two men arrested and charged in connection with the robbery. The next day, a third man, Clinton Mogg (42) was also charged. All three men were remanded in custody to appear in Kingston Crown Court on September 1st. By the middle of October that year, ten male suspects were thought to have been involved and arrested in connection with the robbery. Suspects were charged with attempted murder, conspiracy with others to commit robbery, possession of firearms, holding someone hostage and using a handgun to resist police arrest. Aman Kassaye was the handed the largest sentence of all the men involved. He was given 23 years imprisonment on 7thAugust 2010 for planning and executing the heist. The sentence was given at Woolwich Crown Court, after a trial that lasted nearly three months. Thomas Thomas, Solomun Beyene and Clinton Mogg were all given 16 years imprisonment, also getting convicted for conspiracy to rob. Experts believe that nearly all of the valuable stones in the jewellery have most likely been fragmented apart, so they could be sold on anonymously around the world after being re-cut.
Image credits:www.guardian.co.uk