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    Dec 14, 2015

    London heist was no 'Ocean 11': prosecutors


    THE press has compared the gang alleged to be behind one of Britain's most audacious jewellery heists to the glamorous thieves of Hollywood movie Ocean's Eleven, but the reality is much less sexy.

    Rather than George Clooney and Brad Pitt, the group believed to be behind April's daring raid on a London safe-deposit facility includes two geriatrics and a man suffering from incontinence.

    A red-haired man known as "Basil", who allegedly let the men into the jewellery vault through a fire escape, has not yet been identified, adding an air of mystery.

    The burglary at Hatton Garden, long known as London's jewellery quarter, was the "largest burglary in English legal history", said prosecutor Philip Evans.

    Four of the defendants, including the 76-year-old mastermind, have already pleaded guilty, while several others still face trial.

    Taking advantage of a long Easter weekend in early April, prosecutors told the court that the gang broke into the vault of central London's Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company.

    Disguised as gas workers and fitted with hard hats, it is claimed they rappelled down an elevator shaft then used a diamond-tipped industrial drill to bore three holes in a concrete wall 50cm thick.

    Video surveillance recorded the comings and goings as 73 safes were emptied for a booty worth about £14 million (S$30 million) in gold, sapphires, diamonds, jewellery, luxury watches and cash.

    The raid was only discovered the following Tuesday.

    Appealing for help from the public, Scotland Yard detective Craig Turner said a "particularly ambitious" burglary appeared to have been carried out by an "Ocean's 11-style" team.

    As details of the raid became clear, the comparison to the sophisticated Hollywood heist was not entirely justified.

    Things did not go as planned from the start, as the thieves took longer than planned to break through the vault's wall, forcing them to bring more equipment.

    Alleged mastermind Brian Reader is believed to have ditched the raid on the first night, having arrived at the scene by bus using a senior's free travel pass.

    Court also heard that suspect Terry Perkins, 67, was secretly recorded boasting of having carried out the "biggest robbery" in the world in his bugged Citroen car.

    He also mentioned his diabetes and the insulin injections he had to take during breaks in the raid, court heard.

    Another alleged gang member, William "Bill" Lincoln, 60, suffers from incontinence and wet himself when arrested, according to police.

    Prosecutors claim that they hatched their plan while drinking at the Castle pub in Islington, a neighbourhood in North London.

    Court also heard that they watched videos on YouTube to learn about drilling techniques.

    Police even found a book entitled Forensic Science For Dummies at the home of Daniel Jones, 60. He has pleaded guilty to the robbery, and told officers he had buried his loot in a memorial plot in north London, belonging to a relative of his partner.

    However, he is alleged to have kept from the police that the lion's share was buried next to his father-in-law's grave.

    Many grey areas in the case remain.

    Two-thirds of the loot has not been found and red-headed "Basil" is still on the loose.

    The police are also still establishing why they did not react when the alarm was triggered, giving the robbers a full bank holiday to carry out their plan. They have since apologised for the apparent blunder.