Ringleader of Hatton Garden jewel heist gang jailed for 10 years

Seed's (above) unusual limp helped to convict him.
Seed's (above) unusual limp helped to convict him.PHOTO: METROPOLITAN POLICE
The gang used a diamond-tipped drill to bore through the concrete wall of a vault (above) over a long holiday weekend.
The gang used a diamond-tipped drill to bore through the concrete wall of a vault (above) over a long holiday weekend.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - A judge on Friday (March 15) jailed for 10 years the ringleader of the heist gang behind one of the biggest burglaries in English legal history - after his unusual limp helped convict him.

Michael Seed, 58, known as "Basil" to the rest of the ageing six-man crime crew, was found guilty earlier on Friday of being the ringleader of the 2015 Hatton Garden jewellery raid in the capital's diamond district.

It netted £13.7 million (S$24 million) of gold, jewellery and precious stones.

The alarm specialist had evaded capture for three years following the daring burglary, in which the gang used a diamond-tipped industrial drill to bore through a concrete vault wall over a long holiday weekend.

The five other members of the group were jailed for between six and seven years in 2016. Two of the men were in their 70s and one has since died in prison.

Seed was eventually arrested at his flat in north London in March last year. Police found 933 items of jewellery stolen in the raid, including gold ingots he was breaking up on a workbench in his bedroom.

Alongside a smelting machine, police also found burglar alarm technical manuals and signal blockers for alarms.

"Your role was a central one," said Judge Christopher Kinch as he handed down the decade-long sentence.

"In my judgement this must rank among the worst offences of its type."

'UNUSUAL LIMP'

During Seed's trial, jurors heard from a gait expert that his "unusual" limp matched the walk of "Basil" captured on CCTV during the burglary.

The man in the footage could not be identified because he was wearing a ginger wig and a face covering as a disguise.

 
 

Seed - who the court heard pays no taxes, claims no benefits and rarely uses a bank account - claimed he was an amateur jeweller who came by the stolen items innocently.

But the jury found him guilty of conspiracy to burgle and of converting the proceeds of crime.

"Our prosecution was able to use all of the evidence to prove he was not only involved but was one of the ringleaders," said Kate Mulholland, of England's state prosecution service.

"He was the only member of the group with the technical knowledge to defeat complex alarm systems."

Wearing high visibility jackets, the Hatton Garden gang ransacked 73 safety deposit boxes in April 2015 in the heart of London's jewellery district.

The Crown Prosecution Service said the heist "is believed to be one of the largest burglaries in English legal history".

The audacious raid has since inspired several movies, including last year's King Of Thieves, starring Michael Caine.

Prior to Seed, nine people had been convicted and imprisoned for crimes related to the heist, receiving sentences ranging from 18 months to seven years.