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Mayfair robbers arrive in black cab – and leave with £40m haul

Armed duo take woman hostage in raid on celebrity jewellers before escaping with pick of most expensive items

Two men took a woman hostage and stole nearly £40m worth of necklaces, rings and watches from a Mayfair jewellers in Britain's biggest jewel heist.

The men, dressed in suits, arrived in a taxi at the Graff Diamonds jewellers on New Bond Street about 4.40pm on Thursday. They were buzzed through an airlock into the store, which caters for clients including Mike Tyson, the Beckhams and Naomi Campbell.

Once inside they threatened staff with handguns, forcing them to lie on the floor, apart from one woman who they ordered to open a display cabinet.

They stole 43 pieces of jewellery in two minutes before forcing a female staff member to accompany them outside. Police believe this was to ensure that they were not trapped between the store's two doors.

Their haul included a pair of white, round, diamond double-hoop earrings, a yellow diamond flower necklace, a platinum white Marquise diamond ring and a Chronograph men's 45mm watch.

Once outside, they fired a warning shot into the ground before fleeing in a blue BMW. Police say they then drove to Old Bond Street before abandoning their car in Dover Street when it collided with a taxi.

They changed cars, firing another gunshot into the ground as they were chased by members of the public, getting into a silver Mercedes which they drove through Berkeley Square, before changing vehicles again in Farm Street – this time into a Ford Galaxy or Volkswagen Sharan.

Yesterday, the Metropolitan Police issued a CCTV image of the pair arriving at the store and warned that they were "extremely dangerous".

Detectives from the Flying Squad believe they are looking for at least five men, including a motorbike rider who was given a package by the two men when they were in the BMW, and two other men who were getaway drivers. Detective Chief Inspector Pam Mace said: "This was a well-planned robbery with a number of vehicles used to help the robbers escape.

"These men are extremely dangerous and fired at least two shots in busy London streets as they made their getaway. Someone knows who these men are, they would undoubtedly have spoken about it beforehand or boasted about it afterwards. I would urge anyone who recognises them, knows the whereabouts of the jewellery or has any other information to contact us."

The £40m haul beats the previous record of £30m of goods taken from a Cartier workshop in 1997. Graff in Mayfair also fell victim to a £23m heist in 2003 and the Graff store in Sloane Square was robbed in 2007, when two armed robbers arrived in a chauffer-driven Bentley and threatened staff.

In last week's raid, detectives believe the men targeted the most expensive items. One officer said: "They knew exactly what they were looking for and we suspect they already have a market for the jewels. "

The suspects' details have been circulated to all ports and airports but police believe they would have organised an escape route and may have already left the country.

The first suspect is described as white, about 30 years old, with a slim build, dark hair, light stubble and between 5ft10in and 6ft tall. His accomplice is black, in his 30s, 6ft tall, more well built and with short Afro hair. It is believed they spoke with London accents. A spokeswoman for Graff refused to comment on the robbery.