May 19, 2015 10:23 AM

UK police arrest 7 in major jewel heist case

The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) More than 200 British police swooped down on suspected jewel thieves Tuesday, making arrests in the notorious Hatton Garden heist that took place in London over the Easter weekend.

Triumphant police, whose early work on the case had been criticized because of the failure to respond to an alarm, said they believe some of the stolen loot has been recovered.

Scotland Yard said seven British men, ranging in age from 48 to 76, are being questioned in a London police station after the morning raids. The men were arrested in north London and in Kent, southeast of the city.

Commander Peter Spindler defended the police performance in the face of criticism of their previous efforts.

"At times we've been portrayed as if we have acted like Keystone Cops but I want to reassure you that in the finest traditions of Scotland Yard, these detectives have done their utmost to bring justice to the victims of this callous crime," he said.

The methodical heist fascinated Britain. The gang members, dressed in fluorescent vests and hard hats, entered the high-security vault area in London's world-famed diamond district carrying bags and wheeled garbage bins for carrying off the jewels.

They worked for two nights over the holiday weekend, drilling through concrete walls 2 meters (6 feet) thick to get into the vault, and left with the contents of dozens of safe-deposit boxes. Police did not assign a value to the heist.

Police said bags containing a significant amount of high-value property were recovered at one of the addresses and they are confident some of these were items stolen during the burglary, when thieves broke into a vault containing safe-deposit boxes.

Detective Superintendent Craig Turner asked victims of the high profile crime to be patient as police try to sort out the recovered loot.

"Police officers will be in contact with them," he said.

Police acknowledged that the alarm system procedures in place during the robbery were not properly followed, giving the thieves plenty of time to break into the boxes and escape.

"We are now in a position to confirm that on this occasion our call-handling system and procedures for working with the alarm-monitoring companies were not followed," police said.

"Our normal procedures would have resulted in police attending the scene, and we apologize that this did not happen."


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