Armed burglars in pounds 1m gem raid at Cartier

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The Independent Online
Up to pounds 1m worth of jewellery and gems has been stolen from the workshops of the Cartier company. The raid was carefully planned and swiftly executed, says Jason Bennetto, Crime Correspondent.

Detectives are investigating a robbery in a central London jewellery workshop in which two armed men stole hundreds of thousands of pounds' worth of gems in minutes.

Two masked robbers, with sawn-off shotguns, climbed onto the roof of a building next to Cartier's secret fifth-floor workshop and jumped into it after smashing through through the glass roof, surprising two workers. The manager and another staff member were threatened and handcuffed to a table before the raiders, wearing balaclavas, removed gems and jewellery that were being made and repaired. They then climbed out of the building back onto the roof and escaped near New Bond Street, central London.

The whole operation, which happened on Wednesday evening, took about 20 minutes, the robbers spent only 10 minutes inside the workshop.

The raiders appeared to know precisely when to strike - just before the workshop, called English Art Works, was due to close. The workshop, where new jewellery is made and old pieces repaired, is supposed to be a secret and is hid discretely on the fifth floor of on an office building in New Bond Street, close to Cartier's London headquarters. Yet the robbers were able to get into the building at great speed - entering via a yard behind the office - and leave at about 7.20pm without being spotted.

Detectives from Scotland Yard's Flying Squad are examining closed-circuit television footage, although there had been reports that the CCTV was switched off shortly before the raid. They have also recovered an aluminium ladder on the roof of the workshop, which was used to get into the building.

Arnaud Bamberger, the managing director of Cartier said yesterday: "Two members of staff were on the premises and although they were handcuffed and threatened, I am relieved to say that neither of them was injured. Items were stolen ... but we believe it be less than pounds 1m."None are believed to have belonged to clients.

Former Flying Squad commander John O'Connor said yesterday the "audacious" robbery was slick and well organised. But he said the raiders would be very vulnerable as they attempted to sell the gems.

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