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Hatton Garden ringleader 'Basil' sentenced to prison four years after burglary

Prosecutors allege alarm specialist posed as BT engineer to tamper with security system

Chiara Giordano
Friday 15 March 2019 18:37 GMT
CCTV screen grab issued by the Metropolitan Police of Michael Seed (nicknamed Basil) on 24 April 2016.
CCTV screen grab issued by the Metropolitan Police of Michael Seed (nicknamed Basil) on 24 April 2016. (PA)

An alarm specialist known as “Basil” has been sentenced to 10 years in prison four years after carrying out the £14m Hatton Garden heist.

Michael Seed, 58, was found to be the sixth member of a gang of ageing criminals who ransacked a vault in a building in London’s diamond district and stole the contents of 73 safe deposit boxes.

The electronics expert was one of two men who climbed into the vault after the gang drilled through the thick concrete wall over the 2015 Easter bank holiday weekend.

Seed - who pays no taxes, claims no benefits and rarely uses a bank account - evaded capture for three years before police raided his flat in Islington, north London, about two miles away from Hatton Garden, on 27 March last year.

The electronics expert confidently told a jury at Woolwich Crown Court he was not the man nicknamed “Basil” by the rest of the gang.

But on Friday he became the tenth person convicted in connection with the crime when he was found guilty of conspiracy to burgle the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company and conspiracy to handle the proceeds after £143,000 worth of gold ingots, gems and jewellery was found in his bedroom.

Seed was cleared of conspiracy to burgle the high-end Chatila jewellery store in Bond Street over the late August bank holiday weekend in 2010 with members of the same gang.

Prosecutors alleged that Seed posed as a BT engineer to tamper with the security system before the burglary, then used a 2G mobile phone jammer to block the alarm signal.

The thieves failed to drill into a safe containing £40m worth of gems but made off with £1m worth of jewellery from the shop’s display cabinets.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated for 35 hours and 35 minutes before returning their verdicts on Friday.

Well-spoken Seed, who grew up in Cambridge, appeared expressionless moments after the verdicts were returned.

Jewellery in a plastic container found by police at the home of Michael Seed in Islington, north London, which was shown at Woolwich Crown Court. (PA)

Seed’s fellow Hatton Garden ringleaders Brian Reader, 80, John “Kenny” Collins, 78, Daniel Jones, 64, and Terry Perkins, who died in prison last year aged 69, were all jailed in 2016.

Collins and Reader are already out of prison but face going back to jail if they fail to pay back more than £6.5m of the proceeds police believe could still be under their control.

Detectives believe the gang could have been operating undetected for decades before they were caught, but cannot link them to any other crimes.

Police waited until March last year to strike, catching Seed red-handed with more than 1,000 items stolen in the Hatton Garden heist.

He is believed to have been melting down gold and breaking up jewellery on his bedroom workbench bit by bit as it was brought in from a bigger stash.

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Gait expert Dr Gordon Burrow compared covert footage of Seed with CCTV images of Basil, disguised in a ginger wig, facemask and hat as he carried a black bin bag to and from the scene to obscure his face from the cameras.

The podiatrist told jurors the “unusual” limp offered “strong support” for the prosecution case that Seed was Basil.

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