'Ocean's Eleven' trio convicted over $28m heist

The hole the thieves drilled through a concrete vault during the Hatton Garden heist in London.
The hole the thieves drilled through a concrete vault during the Hatton Garden heist in London.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Three men were found guilty on Thursday of involvement in an audacious London heist that drew comparisons with the film Ocean's Eleven - albeit with pensioners filling the leading roles.

Prosecutors called it the "biggest burglary in English legal history".

The raid on a vault in Hatton Garden, London's jewellery district, netted £14 million (S$28 million) worth of booty including jewellery, gold and cash.

A jury at Woolwich Crown Court in south-east London convicted Carl Wood, 58, and William Lincoln, 60, of conspiracy to commit burglary, and also conspiracy to conceal, convert or transfer criminal property.

Hugh Doyle, 48, was also found guilty of concealing, converting or transferring criminal property.

A fourth man, Jon Harbinson, 42, was cleared of the two offences.

The verdicts take to seven the number of men convicted over the raid.

Another four men - John Collins, 75, Daniel Jones, 60, Terrence Perkins, 67 and Brian Reader, 76 - earlier pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to burgle.

The men "carried out the biggest burglary in English legal history," said lawyer Ed Hall of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

"The four main ringleaders, a close-knit group of experienced criminals... pleaded guilty after realising the strength of the case against them.

"Three other men who played significant roles in the moving and concealing of the stolen gold and jewels have also been convicted" following the CPS prosecution.

All seven will be sentenced on March 7.

On April 2 last year, the group broke into the vault, where many shopkeepers had left their stock over the Easter holiday weekend, forcing open 73 secure boxes over three days.

The press had compared the gang to Hollywood movie Ocean's Eleven, but the reality was much less glamorous.

Rather than George Clooney and Brad Pitt, two of those convicted were in their mid-seventies and the seven had a combined age of over 400 years.

Disguised as gas workers and fitted with hard hats, the group rappelled down an elevator shaft then used a diamond-tipped industrial drill to bore three large holes in a concrete wall 50cm thick.

Prosecutors said that they hatched their plan while drinking at the "Castle" pub in Islington, north London.

Court also heard that they watched videos on YouTube to learn about drilling techniques.

Police even found a book entitled Forensic Science For Dummies at the home of Jones.

Two-thirds of the loot has not been found and a red-headed suspect known as "Basil" is still on the loose.

There is a £20,000 reward for information leading to his arrest and the recovery of outstanding stolen property, said Scotland Yard police headquarters.

So far, just over £3.7 million worth of gold and jewellery has been recovered.

Perkins's daughter Terri Robinson, 35, pleaded guilty to concealing, converting or transferring criminal property, as did her brother-in-law Brenn Walters, 43, also known as Ben Perkins.

They will be sentenced at the end of March.