Hatton Garden heist: Why the police raids and recovery of 'high-value property' could be the worst nightmare for some robbery victims

The discovery of items which police claim to be confident is linked to the incident will push back safety deposit box owners' insurance claims – perhaps by years

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The Independent Online

Scotland Yard has hailed a series of raids that led to the arrest of nine suspects in the Hatton Garden heist, saying detectives had “done their utmost to bring justice to the victims of this callous crime”.

But for some victims, the police’s recovery of a “significant amount of high-value property” could spell disaster.

A number of those who stored their belongings at the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company prior to the daring Easter weekend raid say they have “lost their livelihoods” in the incident. The vast majority are thought to be traders in London’s jewellery quarter, with much of their wealth tied up in goods.

At least some of the victims are believed to have been insured for up to £100,000, and legal experts say the discovery of even a small amount of property would kick all their claims into the long grass.

More than 70 safety boxes were raided and discarded in a pile

Jeffrey Lewis, director of the Lewis Nedas law firm, told The Independent that if none of the stolen property was recovered then “those with an insurance policy for [the maximum] £100,000 would probably receive a pay-out quite quickly” – between six months and a year.

“But if property has been recovered the whole process will make it take much, much longer,” he said.

Shortly after the robbery, some clients of the Hatton Garden company said that they wanted a quick resolution from police one way or another saying: “We still know nothing… I just wish they would put us out of our misery.”

If charges are brought against the nine suspects arrested on Tuesday, however, that is unlikely to happen.

Then, Mr Lewis said, any recovered property would almost certainly be required by the prosecution as evidence.

And police would only begin a financial investigation at the conclusion of a potentially lengthy trial, working out the rightful owners of any items, before that information could be assessed by insurers.

Lewis Nedas previously represented the holders of safety deposit boxes affected by a 2008 police operation known as Rize, in which some items were damaged or taken as evidence.

“In those cases certain people got boxes back within two or three months,” Mr Lewis said. “But some had to wait until the investigation was completed – and I don’t think all of those are done even today.”

Scotland Yard has asked the owners of boxes involved in the Hatton Garden raid for “patience in relation to this matter”.

A spokesperson said there was no timetable at this stage for when victims would be contacted about the possible recovery of their belongings – and declined to comment on the impact this would have on any insurance claims.

The London Diamond Bourse, a trade association which held a meeting for affected traders earlier this month, has previously said it was “very pessimistic” about the possibility of recovering money in the case.

Harry Levyp, president of the London Diamond Bourse, told The Independent that many of the organisation’s members were surprised by the news as they did not expect the police to recover any property.

He went on to say that members were initially frustrated that they could not remove unopened boxes from the vault, but that the police later explained that the vault was a crime scene.

“Goods had been scattered over the floor and they had to collect and collate these goods, as well as obtaining forensic evidence," he said.

“When we heard the news yesterday we immediately emailed Detective Superintendent Craig Turner, whom we had met in the Bourse, and congratulated him and his team on their wonderful achievement. I was one of the sceptical members from the trade, but I am glad to have been proved wrong.

He added: "As regards to the recovered goods, those who were uninsured are of course happy to know all or some of their goods should now be returned to them. However, those who are insured, will probably find the insurance companies will now hold back in making any payments, until they know what has and what has not been stolen. This may take some time."