PARIS • Just after midnight on Monday, Kim Kardashian West left an intimate Fashion Week reception and dinner in the Marais section of Paris, after attending a Givenchy fashion show with her sister Kourtney, their mother Kris Jenner and rock singer Courtney Love.
Along with a bodyguard, they entered a dark van with tinted windows and drove off.
About 2 1/2 hours later, French officials said, the reality TV star was robbed at gunpoint of jewellery worth at least €8 million (S$12.2 million). She was alone in a luxurious apartment in the Eighth Arrondissement, about 3km from the dinner, when two men burst in, tied her up and gagged her, then escaped with at least three accomplices, officials said.
The crime stunned her fans. Her husband, rapper Kanye West, abruptly walked off the stage of a New York concert, when he learnt of the crime. The crime also focused unwanted attention on France, where tourism has plummeted following a series of major terrorist attacks.
Crucial details remained unclear on Monday, but police and the mayor of Paris vowed to get to the bottom of the crime and reassure people that the French capital was safe to visit.
"I condemn the attack Kim Kardashian suffered last night in her hotel," mayor Anne Hidalgo said in a statement. "I have full confidence that the police force, as part of their investigation, will quickly identify and apprehend the perpetrators of these acts."
Mr Laurent Riquart, a spokesman for the investigative unit of the Paris police, said the men were among about five people who stormed the Hotel de Pourtales near the Madeleine church. At least one had a handgun. "Once they were in the building, they tied up the receptionist's hands," he said. "They went up the stairs and entered her room. They tied up her hands and put a gag in her mouth."
Mr Luc Poignant, a spokesman for a police officers' union, said the men locked her in a bathroom after tying her up with tape. They also made off with mobile phones and a wallet with credit cards. Three of them left on foot and two on bikes, he said. They had targeted their victim - they forced the concierge to tell them where Kardashian West was staying and tied his hands.
They took a box of jewels worth €5 million to €6 million and a ring worth about €4 million, said a Paris police source. They appeared to have worn shirts identifying themselves as police officers - but also balaclavas and gloves, which are not part of the police uniform. A police source said the robbers put a handgun against her temple.
Sources told website TMZ that the mother of two was asleep in a robe when she heard the men coming up the stairs. She tried to call her security guard Pascal Duvier, but her phone was snatched by one of the men. They also tied up her ankles before putting her in the bathtub. She told police that she feared she was about to be raped, according to TMZ.
The robbers allegedly kept saying "ring, ring". She told them where to find a new ring - a photograph of which she posted on social media last Friday, TMZ added. She had posed with the diamond sparkler - reportedly a 20-carat ring by Lorraine Schwartz - with her mouth open to show off gold dental grillz and a black and gold choker. Reports said West gave her the ring, worth US$4 million (S$5.5 million) in August.
Meanwhile, her stylist friend Simone Harouche had hopped out of bed in a room downstairs, said TMZ. She locked herself in a bathroom and called Mr Duvier, who was out guarding Kourtney at a nightclub. He returned two minutes after the robbers left, TMZ said.
E! News, whose United States network airs the Keeping Up With The Kardashians show, quoted a source close to the star as saying, "She begged for them to let her live and (said) she has babies at home... She thought they were for sure going to kill her."
Kardashian West, 35, "badly shaken but physically unharmed" as her spokesman said, left France on Monday by private jet with her daughter, North, three, and 10-month-old son Saint. Both were not present during the robbery.
In New York, wearing sunglasses and with her head bowed, she was pictured entering her Manhattan apartment with West. She was not wearing her 20-carat diamond ring and said nothing to waiting media.
Did her openness make her vulnerable to the thieves? The prolific user of social media had been documenting her days in Paris in detail on social media, right up until about an hour before the robbery when she posted a Snapchat video of herself curled up on a couch in a white bathrobe.
High-profile crimes are not uncommon in France. In 2013, a thief robbed a luxury hotel in Cannes, stealing tens of millions of dollars in jewellery. In 2014, the Place Vendome, one of the most fashionable squares in Paris, was hit by a series of smash-and-grab robberies. Last year, thieves assaulted two armoured vans and made off with jewellery worth about US$10 million.
Meanwhile, West has rescheduled two tour dates this week in Philadelphia and Detroit "due to family concerns", a promoter said. He resumes his tour on Friday in Chicago.
NYTIMES, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE- PRESSE