DETECTIVES hunting the armed robbers who escaped with a £1 million haul of jewels in Scotland’s biggest ever jewel heist have launched a UK-wide dragnet for the suspects.
Officers are contacting police forces across Britain to search for robberies similar to the daring raid carried out at Rox jewellers in George Street on
Tuesday. Investigators believe the two men, one with an English accent and the other with a local accent, may have struck elsewhere before coming to the Capital to target the luxury store armed with a gun and an axe.
Store bosses revealed that the £1m in stolen merchandise included diamond necklaces and engagements rings worth upwards of £100,000 each and luxury watches from brands including Hublot and Corum.
But Scotland’s most expensive timepiece – the handmade Opera Two Girard-Perregaux watch worth £500,000, which had been on display at the store – was not among the stolen items, having been moved shortly after Christmas.
Detectives pledged to leave “no stone uncovered” following the robbery, which took place at around 5.15pm on Tuesday. The robbers confronted two female shop assistants and forced them to open a window display. One of the men smashed cabinets with the axe while the other brandished a handgun before escaping with their haul in rucksacks on a black Honda 650 motorbike.
The motorbike was later found abandoned in Northumberland Street North West Lane along with the axe.
Detective Chief Inspector Bobby Deas, who is leading the inquiry, said that officers would be looking for links to robberies across the UK.
He said: “We are ruling out no other incident. We will be looking at incidents that may have taken place, but at the moment we are dealing with this incident here and there will be no stone left uncovered in our investigation.
“The staff are safe, unharmed, but no doubt will have suffered an element of shock. It was a frightening incident.”
DCI Deas said that officers were scouring city centre CCTV cameras while the motorbike and axe were being forensically examined.
He added: “We’re appealing for witnesses, both in George Street and down at Northumberland Street North West Lane where the motorcycle was recovered. It’s hugely important to us.”
A senior Strathclyde Police detective said his force expected to be contacted over the robbery. He said: “On an incident like this the call would go out to neighbouring forces pretty much straight away, to say ‘can you help?’.
“This was clearly a highly-organised, efficient job where the culprits will almost certainly have scoped the premises beforehand. If I was the investigating officer I would want to know if anyone had spotted people hanging around the premises, maybe taking photographs, or someone posing as a client wanting to try on high-end gear who somehow didn’t fit.
“This kind of material will only have a certain number of outlets. It’s not the sort of thing you hawk at a car boot sale. It will more than likely have been stolen to order with a recipient in mind.”
In September, at the Lime Blue jewellers just 100 metres away, a robber pretending to be a customer snatched engagement rings worth £27,000.
Protect Global, a security firm specialising in protecting jewellery stores, said: “Jewellers’ shops are classed as vulnerable businesses because they can be easy targets for day-time robbers as well as night-time burglary.”
A spokeswoman for Rox said: “This has been a terrible ordeal for our staff; their safety is our main priority at all times and we are thankful that although they are badly shaken, no-one was physically harmed.”
The store was closed yesterday but was set to reopen today.
The suspect with the axe was wearing a dark top and jogging bottoms with a stripe down the sleeve and leg. The other man was wearing a dark top and dark jogging-type trousers.
Diamond raiders made off with £40m haul
THE UK’s biggest jewel heist took place in August 2009 when two men posing as customers targeted Graff Diamonds in New Bond Street, London and stole jewellery worth nearly £40 million.
One necklace stolen by the suspects, who were wearing prosthetic make-up, was reportedly worth more than £3.5m.
It is the second largest UK robbery after the £53m raid on a Securitas depot in Tonbridge, Kent in 2006.
Before Tuesday’s raid in George Street, Scotland’s biggest ever robbery was believed to be an SAS-style raid on an Aberdeen cash depot.
Three men wearing balaclavas dropped down from the roof into a Securitas depot and held staff at gunpoint before making off with around £1m.
The previous biggest ever
robbery in Edinburgh is believed to be a ram-raid at the Asda store at the Jewel in October 1997 in which a gang stole more than £150,000 at gunpoint.