Smash-and-grab raid at Queen's silversmith

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The Independent Online

A gang of smash-and-grab robbers raided a landmark branch of the Queen's silversmith today.

Jewellery was snatched from displays at Mappin & Webb at the junction of Old Bond Street and Piccadilly in London's West End.

Witnesses told police several men on motorcycles raced up to the shop and smashed windows with heavy tools before escaping.

Forensic officers were examining the scene today and police have cordoned off a large section of Old Bond Street, famed for its expensive jewellers.

Staff at a nearby bureau de change said the same shop was the victim of a similar raid last year.

Branches of Mappin & Webb have proved a popular target for smash-and-grab gangs who have plagued jewellers in the capital.

The Regent Street store was raided at least three times in 2008. In one attack a Vauxhall Vectra was driven through the front doors and security gates.

In 2006 two teenagers were jailed after stealing goods worth about £26,000 from Mappin & Webb in Fenchurch Street.

The business holds two royal warrants and acts as silversmith to the Queen and Prince Charles.

The groups of thieves responsible have been dubbed "Fagin's Kitchen" gangs after police discovered some members were aged in their early teens.

Goods worth £4 million have been taken as thieves targeted jewellers and other luxury stores. Victims have included Watches of Switzerland, Cartier, Dolce & Gabbana and Tiffany and Co.

In one raid on the Mozafarian store in Knightsbridge last August, gems worth more than £1m were stolen in less than a minute.

Investigators scored a success last December when six members of one gang were jailed for a total of 22 years.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: "At approximately 11.20am today police were called to reports of a robbery at a shop in Old Bond Street WC1.

"A number of suspects on motorcycles approached the shop and smashed windows before stealing items.

"Westminster CID are investigating. We have not been informed of any injuries. There have been no arrests and inquiries continue."

No one at Mappin & Webb was available to comment.