Jury sees footage of 'terrifying' £40m heist

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The Independent Online

A young woman was kidnapped at gunpoint and forced to help raiders in a £40 million jewellery heist, a court heard today.

Petra Ehnar, a shop assistant at Graff's jewellers in New Bond Street, Mayfair, central London, was forced to empty the store's display cabinets before being held with a gun to her back while the robbers made their getaway on August 6 last year.

Aman Kassaye and Craig Calderwood conspired with seven other men to terrify staff and members of the public in the "high stakes" raid, Woolwich Crown Court heard.

Philip Bennetts, for the prosecution, said the robbers used professional make-up artists to disguise their appearance and shot at anybody who tried to impede their escape.

They used a series of getaway cars and several vans and trucks to obstruct traffic and delay police, the court was told.

The jury of eight women and four men was shown footage of the moment a shot was fired in the street outside the store as passers-by began to realise what was happening.

The mobile phone footage caught raised voices and shouting outside the jewellers before a loud shot sent people running for cover.

Mr Bennetts told the jury: "It introduces you, does it not, to something of the atmosphere of that day and what those in the store when guns were shown and they were threatened would feel when they were forced, as they were, to hand over the jewellery."

He went on: "The end result is that those involved succeeded in their goal.

"The terrified employees handed over the jewels, people who attempted to impede the escape were shot at, and the bag containing the jewels was handed to the waiting motorcyclist who made his escape.

"The robbers made their getaway, and the jewellery that they took has not yet been recovered."

He said the victims were "the real centre of this case, not the value of jewels that were taken".

They were "the victims of a terrifying robbery at gunpoint", he said.

CCTV footage from inside the store showed manager Martin Leggatt spread-eagled on the floor with a gun pointed at his head.

Ms Ehnar was told she would be killed if she did not carry out the robbers' demands, Mr Bennetts said.

Describing the footage of the robbers leaving the store with Ms Ehnar at gunpoint, he said: "You see the gun pressed to her back and outside into the street to the right, where a blue BMW motor car was ready and waiting to drive them away.

"People rushed over and at that stage a shot is fired."

Kassaye, 24, of no fixed address, watched the footage from the secure dock at the back of the packed court room along with most of the other eight defendants.

But Calderwood, 27, also of no fixed address, stared at his feet while the footage was shown.

Both men deny conspiracy to rob Graff jewellers between August 3 and August 7, 2009.

Kassaye also denies kidnap and possession of a handgun and sawn-off shotgun. Calderwood also denies possessing a handgun and sawn-off shotgun.

Mr Bennetts said: "It is obvious to state that a robbery in that environment is one where the stakes are high and which requires meticulous planning."

Kassaye and Calderwood planned and executed the heist, entering Graff's and stealing the gems at gunpoint, Mr Bennetts said.

Kassaye fired shots when they were approached outside the store and their actions were caught on CCTV, he said.

The seven other defendants all deny conspiracy to rob.

Solomun Beyene, 25, of Lilestone Street, Marylebone, north-west London, bought so-called dirty telephones and hired a Transit van used as one of the blocking vehicles, the court was told.

Mr Bennetts said the evidence "demonstrates his involvement at the heart of the conspiracy".

Clinton Mogg, 42, of Westby Road, Bournemouth, Dorset, provided the London address used by an innocent make-up artist to make Kassaye and Calderwood look older than they were, the court was told.

Three others - Courtney Lawrence, 31, of Ladbroke Grove, west London; Gregory Jones, 30, of Elgin Avenue, Maida Vale, west London; and Benjamine McFarlane, 22, of Paveley Street, Marylebone, north-west London - are accused of being involved in the purchase of further mobile phones.

David Joseph, 23, of Flaxman Road, Loughborough Junction, south-east London, used one of the blocking vehicles and his fingerprints were found on the false number plate used on the rear of the BMW getaway car, the jury heard.

And the court was told Thomas Thomas, 45, of Penrhyn Road, Kingston upon Thames, hired further blocking vehicles used by the gang.