Book about the Hatton Garden heist unearths new facts about the pensioners behind it
09 January, 2017 — By Peter Gruner
The result of the thieves’ diamond-tipped coring drill used to bore their way through a 50cm-thick concrete wall into the vault. Photos: Metropolitan Police/PA wire/Press Association Images
THOUGHT you knew everything about the old geezers behind the £14 million Hatton Garden jewellery raid?
Now Camden author Gordon Bowers has shed new light on the crime. It was a robbery with a huge amount of chutzpah and dark quirky humour.
Bowers, author of The Great Diamond Heist, has followed the story from the start and now the rights of his book have been sold to ITV. Who can forget reports of the so-called elderly mastermind Brian Reader, 76, travelling to the robbery in Clerkenwell on two buses from his home in Dartford, Kent, using a borrowed Freedom Pass?
In view of its audacity and catalogue of amusing incidents, it’s hardly surprising two films are being made about the raid, which was Britain’s biggest ever underground safe deposit robbery, involving 60 to 70 boxes. One villain even dozed off while acting as a lookout and later seemed partially deaf in court.
Another was recorded by police complaining about his medicine regime and boasting that the haul “could be his pension”. Another robber was left out of the raid due to bladder problems and wet himself while in police custody.
None of this, of course, would be remotely funny to anyone who lost their life savings on the Easter weekend in April 2015. Regulars still discuss the heist at Islington’s Castle pub in Pentonville Road. This was where three pensioners inconspicuously sipped their drinks, planned the robbery, and later discussed the spoils a few weeks afterwards, when they probably thought they’d got away with it.
The men – Reader, Terry Perkins, 67, and Kenny Collins, 75 – were among five later arrested and imprisoned for an average of two to six years each. In one feature film now in production actor Larry Lamb will play Reader. The film also stars Phil Davis. Already there are various actors being suggested for the role of Reader in the other project. Among names being thrown into a hat are actors Michael Gambon, Sir Michael Caine, Sir Patrick Stewart and, inevitably, the “Sexy Beast” himself, Ray Winstone.
Reader, despite being a career criminal, appears to elicit much sympathy from the public because, perhaps, no one was hurt physically in the robbery, and he has also been ill in prison.
Bowers said: “He does not deserve to die in jail, over this heist at least. Towards the end, it would be humane to let him out, so he can be at home with his family.”
Bowers paints a well-researched, extraordinary history of Hatton Garden, home to the jewellery trade since medieval times. There are 350 businesses and 55 shops all dealing with jewellery and gems.
“These sit on a honeycomb of underground tunnels, abandoned railway lines, decommissioned bunkers, ancient passageways thought to have been built by monks, and tributaries of the River Fleet.”
Shortly before the robbery, electrical cables under nearby Kingsway had caught fire, disrupting the emergency services in the area. Bowers asks if this was a coincidence. Alarms at Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd went off, but the police ignored them. The thieves used specialist diamond-tipped drilling equipment, taking days to tunnel through the walls of the vault.
Bowers admits that it is difficult not to be impressed by the sheer audacity of the robbers. He quotes the words of the Judge Christopher Kinch QC, who when passing sentence paid the Diamond Geezers a backhanded compliment. Judge Kinch said: “It is clear that the burglary at the heart of this case stands in a class of its own in the scale of the ambition, the detail of the planning, the level of preparation and the organisation of the team carrying it out, and in terms of the value of the property stolen.”
• The Great Diamond Heist (The true story of the Hatton Garden Robbery). By Gordon Bowers, John Blake £7.90