Two robbers who pulled off Britain's biggest ever jewellery heist may have concealed their identities with film-style rubber masks, it was reported today.
The duo were said to have hired an unsuspecting professional make-up artist to disguise their faces using liquid latex shortly before they made off with a £40 million haul in a raid on an exclusive London jewellers.
According to The Sun, the 29-year-old freelance make-up artist, who cannot be identified for his own safety, also altered their hair colour and skin tone in a four-hour session, for which he charged a £450 fee.
The newspaper reported that forensic experts had seized items including hairbrushes, gowns and bank notes from a make-up studio in Covent Garden, west London.
However, a Metropolitan Police spokesman today declined to comment on this line of inquiry.
Poor quality footage recorded by an eyewitness on a mobile phone captured the moment the robbers fired a gun as they escaped with 43 items of jewellery.
The men can be seen calmly walking towards a blue BMW holding a woman staff member as someone shouts: "Call the police, call the police."
Several security men and possibly one passer-by then move towards the smartly-dressed pair before a gunshot rings out.
A source close to the inquiry said it could not be ruled out that the men intended to harm or kill one of their pursuers and it was not a warning shot.
Investigators were last night trawling through hundreds of hours of CCTV footage to piece together the robbers' exact escape route.
They are looking for at least two accomplices who helped the men escape from Graff Jewellers in London's West End last Thursday.
Officers have recovered a blue BMW abandoned in a nearby street after it collided with a black taxi just seconds after the raid.
They have also found a high-powered motorbike possibly used to spirit away a bag holding the stolen gems.
Detectives believe the two men, whose images were caught on camera as they walked into the Mayfair store, may still be in London.
Officers who interviewed shop staff believe the men had genuine London accents, despite the fact little was said and the robbery was over in under two minutes.
The source added that speculation an eastern European crime syndicate such as the Pink Panther gang may be behind the raid is probably wide of the mark.
Officers arrested and questioned a 50-year-old man in Ilford, east London, on Monday in connection with the robbery.
They suspect that the man, who has been released on bail, may have been involved in planning the raid, although he was not in the West End when it took place.
Officers have searched at least three properties in a series of raids across London and the south east.
The robbers arrived in a black taxi before conning their way past security guards at the prestigious New Bond Street shop.
Once inside they pulled out handguns and threatened staff before snatching expensive rings, bracelets, necklaces and watches from a cabinet.
Police released images of the 43 items of jewellery, which included nine necklaces, 21 rings, six earrings, four watches, two bracelets and a pendant.
The majority of pieces were made of diamonds set in platinum and gold, but some included emeralds.
One pair of round diamond triple-hoop earrings contained 216 gemstones and a flower necklace held 268 clear diamonds arranged around four coloured diamonds.
Once outside the store, the men released the woman employee unharmed and fired one shot before getting in a blue BMW.
A second shot was fired as they got into a silver Mercedes in nearby Dover Street and were challenged by drinkers at a pub.
The car drove on into Farm Street where it is believed some of the suspects got into a black vehicle, possibly a Ford Galaxy or VW Sharan.
Det Ch Insp Pam Mace, of the Flying Squad, said the pair were "extremely dangerous".
She 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."
The first robber was white, about 6ft tall, of slim build, with dark hair and a well-combed side parting. He was wearing a grey suit, white shirt and tie.
The second was black, also about 6ft tall, and was more well-built than the first suspect, with very short Afro hair. He was also wearing a grey suit, white shirt and tie.
The heist dwarfs what is thought to be Britain's previous biggest jewellery robbery, a £23 million raid at the same store in 2003.
Two Serbians, part of the Pink Panther gang, held up staff with a revolver. One gang member was wrestled to the ground as he fled and was later jailed.
In 2007, jewellery worth up to £10 million was stolen from a branch of Graff Diamonds in London's Sloane Street by two men posing as customers.
The men arrived in a chauffeur-driven Bentley Continental Flying Spur before threatening staff at gunpoint.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said of the latest incident: "Following the release of CCTV images of two men they want to speak to, officers are currently following up a number of inquiries.
"Officers searched a number of addresses on Tuesday August 11.
"A 50-year-old man was arrested for robbery on August 10 in connection with the incident outside a residential address in Ilford. He has been subsequently bailed pending further inquiries."
* Anyone with information should contact Barnes Flying Squad on 020 8247 4804 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.Reuse content