Key players in jewellery heist 'unlikely to be caught'

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The Independent Online

The key players behind a £40 million jewellery heist are unlikely ever to be caught, a jury was told today.

Ian Bourne, QC, said the seven men in the dock over last year's armed raid on Graff Diamonds in Mayfair, central London, were not the brains behind the armed robbery.

Two men used professional make-up artists to disguise their appearance, and shot at anybody who tried to impede their escape from the jewellers on August 6 last year, Woolwich Crown Court in east London was told.

Defending Craig Calderwood, 27, who admits carrying out the raid but insists he was acting under duress, Mr Bourne said there were many different roles to be played in an armed heist.

But he said: "Those at the top, and those who are in control of what is going on, are able, you may think, to remain detached, are seldom seen and are never caught."

At least four people seen in a series of getaway cars, and a motorcyclist who was handed the jewels, remained on the run, he said.

He added that others were "required to acquire the nuts and bolts to make the operation a success".

Referring to Calderwood, Mr Bourne went on: "It was inevitable, we submit, that he would be caught as those who recruited, or should we say press-ganged, him were aware."

Earlier, Calderwood told the court he carried out the raid after being told he and his mother would be killed if he did not.

But earlier Philip Bennetts, for the prosecution, said Calderwood and Aman Kassaye, 24, planned and executed the heist, entering Graff's and stealing the gems at gunpoint.

Petra Ehnar, a shop assistant at the store in New Bond Street, Mayfair, described how she was "petrified" when she was forced to empty display cabinets with a gun to her back during the raid.

She filled a bag with 43 pieces of jewellery including earrings, necklaces and watches worth a total of £40 million. One diamond necklace alone was valued at £3.5 million.

Meanwhile, manager Martin Leggatt lay spread-eagled on the floor with a gun pointed at his head and Ms Ehnar was told she would be killed if she did not carry out the robbers' demands.

Several members of staff and security guards have denied accusations of an inside job since the trial started on April 21.

The gang used a series of getaway cars and a motorcycle to escape across the capital, firing two shots in the process.

The jury of eight women and four men was shown footage of the moment Kassaye fired a shot 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 jeweller's before a loud shot sent people running for cover.

All seven defendants deny conspiracy to rob between August 3 and August 7, 2009.

Calderwood, of no fixed address, also denies possessing a handgun and sawn-off shotgun.

Kassaye, also of no fixed address, also denies kidnap and possession of a handgun and sawn-off shotgun.

Solomun Beyene, 25, of Lilestone Street, Marylebone, north west London, is accused of buying so-called dirty telephones and hiring a Transit van used as one of the blocking vehicles.

Clinton Mogg, 43, of Westby Road, Bournemouth, Dorset, is accused of providing the London address used by an innocent make-up artist to make Kassaye and Calderwood look older than they were.

Courtney Lawrence, 31, of Ladbroke Grove, west London, is accused of being involved in the purchase of further mobile phones.

David Joseph, 23, of Flaxman Road, Loughborough Junction, south east London, allegedly 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.

And Thomas Thomas, 45, of Penrhyn Road, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey, is accused of hiring further blocking vehicles used by the gang.

Two other men - Gregory Jones, 30, of Elgin Avenue, Maida Vale, west London, and Benjamine McFarlane, 22, of Paveley Street, Marylebone, north west London - were cleared last month after judge Jeffrey Pegden QC ruled they had no case to answer.

The trial continues.