“They were analog criminals operating in a digital world.”
March 17, 2016 11:51 AM   Subscribe

April 2015: The vault at the Hatton Garden Safety Deposit of London's Diamond district is ransacked by thieves. They score an estimated £14 to £35 million in cash, jewels and other valuables. The media calls it "the greatest heist in British history" and speculates about the acrobatic feats the gang must have used. London’s newspapers are filled with artists’ renderings of the heist, featuring hard-bodied burglars in black turtlenecks doing superhuman things. Experts insist that a foreign team of navy-SEAL-like professionals must have masterminded the theft. Nope.

Media Coverage
* The Independent
* The Mirror
* Wikipedia
* BBC
posted by zarq (53 comments total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was home at the time.
posted by clavdivs at 11:53 AM on March 17, 2016 [11 favorites]


TL;DR They came out of retirement for one last job but they were too old for that shit.
posted by billiebee at 11:56 AM on March 17, 2016 [47 favorites]


Hang on a minute, lads. I've got a great idea.
posted by lagomorphius at 11:59 AM on March 17, 2016 [13 favorites]


I liked it better when Tony Head starred in it.
posted by haileris23 at 12:01 PM on March 17, 2016


I can't wait for the movie.
posted by adept256 at 12:05 PM on March 17, 2016 [6 favorites]


What are we thinking- Terrence Stamp? Patrick Stewart?

Shame about Bob.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 12:16 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


It all became clearer when I noticed they were wearing sneakers - for sneaking!
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 12:16 PM on March 17, 2016 [14 favorites]


yah, but I still wonder how much of the loses are really insurance fraud.. (Isn't that what happened in a previous "big heist" as covered on blue.. )
posted by k5.user at 12:18 PM on March 17, 2016


What's with all the "quotation marks" around "words" in the article?

Reader had generally managed to “walk” away until the Brinks-Mat Job, named for the high-security warehouse at Heathrow Airport hit by a group of bandits on November 26, 1983. Aiming to steal at most $4.4 million in cash, they instead stumbled on what today would be worth $145 million in gold bullion. Reader was merely a “soldier” on that job, moving the gold between a “fence” named Kenny Noye, who was supposed to arrange for it to be melted down, and dealers in Hatton Garden.
posted by justkevin at 12:21 PM on March 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


All three words are slang.
posted by zarq at 12:27 PM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


You didn't hear that Zagat bought Conde Nast?
posted by condour75 at 12:27 PM on March 17, 2016 [8 favorites]


man this article makes me want to go commit crimes
posted by murphy slaw at 12:30 PM on March 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


"the greatest heist in British history"

Really?

The Great Train Robbery of 1963 netted £2,595,997 10s, all in small bills. In 2014 money that's £48.5 million by purchasing power, £99.6 million when comparing income, and £150 million compared to the national GDP.

I mean, this was a big heist, but it wasn't the biggest in British history by a wide margin.
posted by Dreadnought at 12:31 PM on March 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


Crime does seem like a lot more fun when you're not liable to be gunned down in an instant - I guess that is the British tradition though.
posted by the uncomplicated soups of my childhood at 12:35 PM on March 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


The method is similar to the Boylston
Bank robbery in Boston, 1869. Alas, Doyle's, The Red Headed League is similar in methods to Worth and Bullards Boston job which was bankrolled by Marm, the Queen of "discerning company".
Or, the boss.
posted by clavdivs at 12:42 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


It was his job to disable the alarms and the cameras inside the building, and to let the others in. This he did, making one crucial mistake: he neglected to disable two of the CCTV cameras

GODDAMMIT BASIL YOU BLOODY FECKIN' EEJIT
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:47 PM on March 17, 2016 [7 favorites]


Retired Scotland Yard detective Barry Phillips believed it was the work of a highly technical team, assembled by a so-called “Draftsman”—who financed the heist and assembled the players, probably from the U.K. He speculated that no member of the gang would have known any of the others, in order to preserve “sterile corridors,” making it impossible for any perpetrator to rat out the others.

I, too, have recently watched Reservoir Dogs.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:48 PM on March 17, 2016 [23 favorites]


But when arrests were made a month later, Great Britain collectively gasped.

No way. Everyone had instinctively felt this was the work of 'analogue' lags on their last big blag and we loved it. These guys will be the absolute royalty of any prison.
posted by colie at 12:57 PM on March 17, 2016 [13 favorites]


This will also make a much better future movie than yet another Ocean's 11 knockoff.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:00 PM on March 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


straight out of Sexy Beast
posted by supermedusa at 1:00 PM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


I sounds like they would have gotten away with it if they hadn't started hanging out in bars and loudly bragging about how they did it. I thought a basic criminal rule was to lie low for a while and go your separate ways till the heat is off.
posted by Mr. Big Business at 1:01 PM on March 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


man this article makes me want to go commit crimes

Fuck this, let's go do some crimes.
posted by paper chromatographologist at 1:01 PM on March 17, 2016 [17 favorites]


Morrie wants his money.
posted by davebush at 1:04 PM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


The thieves were able to steal the CCTV cameras inside the actual building and its basement vault. “What they forgot, or didn’t know,” said the prosecutor, “was that one little camera in that walkway outside the back of [one jeweler] was still working and recording what they were doing.” Said Peter Spindler, “They were analog criminals operating in a digital world, and no match for digital detectives.”

No match? Okay, they made some really dumb mistakes, but not really in the "digital" area. They used a car that was easy to identify. They made calls on their own phones. And most importantly, THEY TALKED ABOUT IT TO A WHOLE BUNCH OF PEOPLE. I mean...pat yourselves on the back, "digital detectives," but this was just plain stupidity that led you to them.
posted by xingcat at 1:15 PM on March 17, 2016 [12 favorites]


"...everyone who knew Danny would say he was mad." Examples: speak to his terrier as if the dog were human, read books, watch films, and go on the Internet. I must be loony-tunes as well.
posted by jetsetsc at 1:20 PM on March 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yes the 'digital' thing is overdone. It's more likely that they had a contact in the Yard who was in on it and betrayed them. (I had to resist writing 'blew the whole fackin' job wide open' instead of 'betrayed' there. It's all so very Big Vern.)
posted by colie at 1:21 PM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


Yeah, if they don't bang on about the digital thing a) the guy/s who blabbed will be figured out and b) the great state panopticon project will look silly.
posted by The River Ivel at 1:26 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Fuck this, let's go do some crimes.

It's not the 80's anymore, you have to pay for the sushi now.
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:29 PM on March 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


We all know it's wrong, but why are most English and French jewel heists thrilling, comical, and sexy.
posted by clavdivs at 1:36 PM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


"villains, as criminals are called in the U.K." ? Really, Vanity Fair?
posted by janell at 1:39 PM on March 17, 2016 [16 favorites]


"Perhaps they had sneaked the jewels out of the country by stuffing them up the butts of racehorses"

...surely there are better ways

no seriously wouldn't almost ANYTHING be easier than this
posted by instead of three wishes at 1:41 PM on March 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


"Perhaps they had sneaked the jewels out of the country by stuffing them up the butts of racehorses"

Speaking from experience, one presumes.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 1:49 PM on March 17, 2016 [2 favorites]


but why are most English and French jewel heists thrilling, comical, and sexy.

you saw the photo, right? If that's what passes for sexy over there, I'm moving to England and becoming a model cuz if doughy and pasty is in, so am I!
posted by Hoopo at 2:04 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


And we would have gotten away with it. If it wasn't for you meddling kids!
posted by Splunge at 2:26 PM on March 17, 2016 [4 favorites]


I read that "villains?" comment right as a Dodge commercial declared "the world needs villains, and villains need cars." STFU, Dodge
posted by aydeejones at 2:29 PM on March 17, 2016


It was his job to disable the alarms and the cameras inside the building, and to let the others in. This he did, making one crucial mistake: he neglected to disable two of the CCTV cameras

Cool Papa Bell: GODDAMMIT BASIL YOU BLOODY FECKIN' EEJIT

As for the mysterious Basil, he is still at large, along with two-thirds of the haul, worth more than $15 million.

Perhaps not such an eejit after all.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 2:34 PM on March 17, 2016 [14 favorites]


After some description of the colorful past of some of the prominent "villains" in the caper, one man is described only as being "incontinent".

I hope that when I'm 80 years old and masterminding diamond heists the media of the day will refer to me in a matter more befitting a proper villain.
posted by yohko at 2:35 PM on March 17, 2016 [10 favorites]


Also, I'm not sure how much I trust the details in an article by a journalist who is apparently confused by what GPS is:

They managed to only partially disable the alarm by cutting the telephone cable and breaking off the G.P.S. aerial so that its signal range was compromised—but not quite compromised enough, it turned out. A short time later a text alert was sent to the monitoring company, which then contacted Alok Bavishi, another of the H.G.S.D. owners.

It's possible the alarm system did actually include a GPS receiver as the source of an accurate clock signal, but if it did this would use a separate antenna to the one used by the cellular modem to send an SMS. Smartphones have dedicated GPS antennae; I'd be pretty surprised if a fancy alarm system didn't too.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 2:39 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


yohko: After some description of the colorful past of some of the prominent "villains" in the caper, one man is described only as being "incontinent".

To be fair, he does get some extra description later:

At 60, Bill Lincoln was nobody’s idea of the ideal bagman. He suffered from incontinence, sleep apnea, and a recent double hip replacement. He lived in Bethnal Green, in East London, a breeding ground for wanton criminals and once the home turf of the infamous gangsters the Kray twins. Lincoln had convictions for attempted theft, burglary, and battery.
posted by James Scott-Brown at 2:42 PM on March 17, 2016


It's possible the alarm system did actually include a GPS receiver as the source of an accurate clock signal, but if it did this would use a separate antenna to the one used by the cellular modem to send an SMS.

I assume they meant to write GSM. TLAs are easy to mix up.
posted by ymgve at 2:45 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


I found it interesting how the villains (heh) thought that they were beyond the suspicion of the police due to their age and infirmity. That might have been the case if the police investigation was primarily based around a "round up the usual suspects" sort of approach.

Meanwhile, the lessons to take away from this caper:

1) Always assume that you're on CCTV, especially on the streets and even if you think you've disabled the cameras.
2) Don't use any vehicle that can be traced back to you.
3) Don't use any cell phone or computer that can be traced back to you.
4) And, for God's sake, keep your bloody gob shut, ya wankers.
posted by mhum at 3:29 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Brian Reader was also allegedly part of the “Millionaire Moles” gang, which burrowed under a leather-goods shop and restaurant to loot 268 safe-deposit boxes in a Lloyds bank vault in London in 1971. “Let Sherlock Holmes try to solve this,” the gang reportedly wrote on the vault’s wall before escaping with cash and jewels, worth more than $59 million today, and, allegedly, some pretty interesting photographs of Princess Margaret and actor Richard Harris. Reader, in those days, evaded police and went skiing in Méribel or yachting on the “Costa del Crime,” in Spain.

So, was Reader the inspiration (and inside source) for the Jason Statham character in the Bank Job (who ends up yatching too)? The 2015 heist is basically a sequel of the 1971 heist. Put Statham in old-person makeup and the "Bank Job 2 The Golden Years" writes itself.
posted by elgilito at 4:05 PM on March 17, 2016


IDK. A young man with plenty of time to spend and enjoy the dosh? Sure. Keep your gob well shut. If I was 70, had just pulled off the biggest jewel heist in recent memory, and had diabetes or cancer it'd be kinda harder to convince myself to stay mum. "Okay, I can enjoy a few more years in a bit more comfort, and go to my grave as an anonymous retired criminal or I can go out a nationally famous legend re-living my glory days." I'd be down the pub making up stories of the blackmail photos we'd found and paying for rounds with platinum bars.
posted by Grimgrin at 4:09 PM on March 17, 2016 [3 favorites]


Where there's a will-- and there is a will-- there's a way. And there is a fucking way.

I WON'T LET YOU BE HAPPY WHY SHOULD I
posted by jokeefe at 4:28 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]




I like that "allegedly <salacious Royal gossip>."

Allegedly what happened to those photos.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:47 PM on March 17, 2016


It's the "Over the Hill" gang!
posted by rmd1023 at 5:08 PM on March 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


I think I've seen this before.
posted by happyroach at 6:00 PM on March 17, 2016


After some description of the colorful past of some of the prominent "villains" in the caper, one man is described only as being "incontinent".

I hope that when I'm 80 years old and masterminding diamond heists the media of the day will refer to me in a matter more befitting a proper villain.


"So, Mister Bond, we.... bugger. Hang on, I'll be back in a minute...."
posted by 43rdAnd9th at 6:39 PM on March 17, 2016 [5 favorites]


FWIW, I've been in that building many times, visiting a customer (now moved) on the 3rd floor, and the "security" was un/reasonably risible, starting with that unstaffed lobby.
posted by On the Corner at 4:03 AM on March 18, 2016


I'm still convinced the true mastermind behind this got away scot free.

You see, I used to work on Hatton Garden. One warm evening in September 2012, I was leaving the office and a group of men were standing outside.

One of them in particular was definitely planning something. Younger than the others, healthier-looking, sharper dressed. He had a slightly mechanical way of moving which caught my attention – the sort of person whose every action is considered, precise, planned.

He stood, surrounded by the others, pointing at windows, indicating angles, that sort of thing. Like he was trying to explain to them how something was going to go down.

It was Derren Brown.
posted by Buck Alec at 4:13 AM on March 18, 2016 [4 favorites]


The judge, in his sentencing remarks (pdf), was openly sceptical of the 'analog criminals in a digital world' theory:
Far from stumbling into 21st-century crime as relics of a past era, the conspirators were clearly highly aware of the dangers of leaving traces that could lead to their identification. They ensured there was no electronic footprint left by ditching their mobile phones for the period and relying on walkie-talkie radios for communications. The van that picked them all up took them all to a rendezvous at Collins’ house in Bletsoe Walk in Islington. It was never seen again. The conspirators would have had confidence that if there was any sighting of them on any cctv outside the building it would be next to impossible to identify any of them. They could safely go back to their own phones and routines.
On the other hand, Duncan Campbell points out in his excellent account of the case that the thieves didn't realise that online searches could be traced back to them, and that maybe it wasn't such a great idea to search for 'drilltec' or 'drilling online' on their own computers:
There has been much recent talk about whether the police should be required to have degrees. The same might be suggested for professional criminals, who would be taught that, apart from watching what they say in potentially bugged cars and abandoning their mobile phones on a daily basis, they should also be careful what they search for online.
(FWIW, Campbell's piece is easily the best thing I've read on the case, better than the rather breathless Vanity Fair article which relies too uncritically on interviews with the detectives.)
posted by verstegan at 5:56 AM on March 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


Morrie wants his money.

Yeah, but Jimmie is an unconscionable ballbreaker.
posted by prepmonkey at 7:34 AM on March 18, 2016


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