'Pink Panther gang' jailed for four years: Court told of 'beautifully executed' raid to steal Cartier gold and jewels

Members of a 'Pink Panther-style' jewellery gang were jailed for four years yesterday for planning a raid on a Cartier workshop in London.

The five-strong team, led by one of the world's top safe crackers, planted bugging devices to monitor security guards for the 'beautifully executed operation'.

Judge Fabyan Evans told the three who were arrested: 'This must have been one of the most sophisticated burglaries of commercial property that has taken place in recent years.'

Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court, Westminster, was told the gang's target was a safe containing gold, platinum, diamonds and other gemstones.

They thought the haul would be worth pounds 1m. But even if they had got away with it, the value was less than a fifth of that. The plan was foiled when police saw the balaclava-clad men on rooftops.

Two escaped by abseiling 70ft down the back of a five-storey building in New Bond Street. The third was seen climbing through a skylight.

Roy Saunders, 60, the mastermind of the operation, who has opened safes for the police in the past and is regarded as probably the best professional safe-breaker in the world, was caught as he crouched in the basement of a shoe shop next door.

Arrested with him were Robert French, 45, a locksmith, and Robert Reed, 49, a building developer.

They were found guilty at an earlier trial of conspiring last October to burgle New English Artworks, which manufactures watches for Cartier.

Peter Moss, for the prosecution, described the crime as a 'beautifully executed operation along the lines of the Pink Panther or League of Gentlemen films'. It involved detailed planning including one of the gang posing as a window cleaner the day before the raid to check on security.

The video cameras were rendered useless and bugging devices were planted to monitor Group 4 security men guarding the five-storey building. The court heard that thousands of pounds of equipment was found in Reed's car.

Reed, of Islington, north London, and French, of Romford, Essex, claimed they had been planning to raid the shoe shop and offices in the building next to the workshop.

Saunders, of West Crawley, Sussex, insisted he had been too drunk to remember anything of the evening.

Michael Bromley-Martin, for Saunders, told the court that since his client was found guilty he had been hounded in prison by fellow inmates wanting to share his safe-breaking knowledge.

'He has been in Wandsworth prison for two to three weeks and there has been a steady stream of potential criminals coming to his door asking all kinds of questions about safes and locks.

'It is plain that Mr Saunders is determined never to give out this information and not to betray the learning he has come to acquire over the years, as he plainly did on that night in 1992.'

The judge told the three that they had clearly put in 'considerable research' in planning the crime.

He added: 'It is rare nowadays that an offence of this kind that involves such considerable profit, involved no violence. Quite why men of your age became involved in an offence like this, remains a mystery to me.'

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Data Specialist

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are the go-to company for ...

Recruitment Genius: Search Marketing Specialist - PPC / SEO

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join the UK's leadin...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This caravan dealership are currently recruiti...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy