Man guilty of £40m jewellery robbery

A man was convicted today of taking part in Britain's biggest jewellery robbery.

Aman Kassaye, 25, of no fixed address, forced a young shop assistant to help steal gems worth £40 million at gunpoint in the "high stakes" heist at Graff Diamonds in Mayfair, central London, last summer.

He was convicted at Woolwich Crown Court, in south east London, today of kidnap, conspiracy to rob and possessing a firearm. He was acquitted of a further gun possession charge.

The jury was still deliberating on six co-defendants, who all deny charges relating to the robbery.

The gems taken in the robbery have never been recovered.

Kassaye used a professional make-up artist to disguise his appearance and a series of getaway cars to escape across the capital.

The raiders shot at anyone who got in their way, Woolwich Crown Court was told.

Footage was shown to the jury of Kassaye firing a shot in the street outside the store as passers-by began to realise what was happening, sending them running for cover.

Kassaye's defence rested on his assertion that the raid was carried out "by someone remarkably like him".

But Petra Ehnar, the shop assistant held at gunpoint during the raid, identified him.

Philip Bennetts, for the prosecution, told jurors that after what happened "his facial features would be etched in her mind forever".

Ms Ehnar said she was "petrified" when she was forced to empty the store's display cabinet with a gun to her back.

She told police: "This was the first time I have ever been subjected to an armed robbery and I was petrified.

"I was thinking 'I am going to be shot, killed', I had no idea.

"It is the most terrifying experience a person can be put through as you have no control over the situation that you find yourself in."

She was forced to fill a bag with 43 pieces of jewellery including earrings, necklaces and watches worth a total of £40 million.

One diamond necklace alone was valued at £3.5 million.

The court heard that while the robbery was going on, her manager Martin Leggatt was forced to lie spread-eagled on the floor with a gun pointed at his head.

Kassaye gestured to family members as he was found guilty on the ninth day of jury deliberations.

Craig Calderwood, 27, of no fixed address; Solomun Beyene, 25, of Lilestone Street, Marylebone, north-west London; Clinton Mogg, 43, of Westby Road, Bournemouth, Dorset; Courtney Lawrence, 31, of Ladbroke Grove, west London; David Joseph, 23, of Flaxman Road, Loughborough Junction, south-east London; and Thomas Thomas, 45, of Penrhyn Road, Kingston upon Thames, are all accused of conspiracy to rob.

Calderwood is also charged with two counts of possessing a firearm.

Trial judge Mr Jeffrey Pegden QC told the jury that they could return majority verdicts on all other counts.