Three arrested after Westfield shopping centre raid

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The Independent Online

Detectives investigating a million pound raid on jewellers at Europe's largest urban shopping mall arrested three teenage suspects today.

The three, aged 15, 17 and 18, were held at an address in Camden, north London, on suspicion of conspiracy to commit burglary.



Smash-and-grab raiders targeted branches of De Beers and Tiffany & Co at the Westfield centre in Shepherd's Bush, west London, in the early hours of yesterday morning.



A masked gang of up to 10 people used sledgehammers to bash their way into the complex through a fire door.



They then ran to the two ground-floor stores, both in The Village, where Westfield's premium stores are located, before smashing open windows and doors.



Police and security guards were alerted by automatic alarms as the gang sped off in at least three stolen cars, one of which was later recovered in north-west London.



One police patrol was involved in a high-speed chase with a vehicle but lost sight of it in residential streets around the mall.



Witnesses said window displays and glass cases were cleared of valuable jewellery, understood to include necklaces, rings and bracelets, many of which were studded with diamonds.



Officials at Westfield, which opened in October 2008 and houses more than 250 shops, said it was the first burglary of its kind to take place.



But it appeared to be the latest development in a long series of smash-and-grab attacks on jewellers and luxury stores across the capital.



Gangs of thieves, often riding stolen mopeds and armed with heavy tools, have plagued police and retailers and stolen goods worth more than £4 million.



A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said the three suspects were being questioned today at a west London police station.



Detectives have been studying CCTV from a large number of cameras at the complex and in surrounding streets to try to identify the culprits.



The Westfield shopping complex pays for its own private security staff and police teams under an agreement with Hammersmith and Fulham Council.



The 43-acre, £1.7 billion development boasts a 14-screen cinema, 50 restaurants, a gym, a spa and a library.



* Anyone with information is asked to call police on 020 8246 2634 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.