Mastermind behind England's 'biggest' heist jailed

[LONDON] Brian "The Guv'nor" Reader, the 77-year-old mastermind behind England's biggest-ever jewel heist, was jailed Monday for six years and three months for his part in the audacious raid.

Reader, the oldest member of the gang, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary last September.

Prosecutors called the raid on Hatton Garden, London's jewellery district, the "biggest burglary in English legal history", netting £14 million (S$27.5 million) worth of booty including jewellery, gold and cash.

"I'm satisfied that you were rightly described as one of the ringleaders and involved in regular meetings," judge Christopher Kinch told Reader at Woolwich Crown Court in southeast London as he passed sentence.

The court heard about Reader's ill health. He appeared in court via video-link.

Reader has suffered from a number of strokes, prostate cancer, loss of hearing, disruption to his vision, and requires daily assistance with tasks like showering.

His previous convictions go back more than 60 years, including a burglary conviction in 1950.

Referring to the fact Reader was not present on the second night of the raid, the judge said it appears he had "had enough" on the first night and went home.

He suggested that Reader perhaps decided that "the enterprise wasn't actually going to succeed".

Eight others have received prison sentences for their part in the conspiracy.

The group broke into the vault on April 2 last year, and over three days forced open 73 secure boxes where many jewellers had left their stock over the Easter holiday.

The press has compared the robbery to Hollywood heist flicks, made even more remarkable by the advanced ages of the conspirators. Three other ringleaders were aged 75, 67 and 61.

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

Prosecutors said that they hatched their plan in a north London pub.

The 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 one of the conspirators.

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.

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


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