Eight experienced criminals dubbed the “Bad Grandpas,” who stole jewels worth $20 million from underground safety deposits in London, are the subject of a new book. It describes in detail how the elderly men robbed the deposit boxes, where they went wrong, and how they were caught and convicted.
Aged between 52 and 73 at the time, the eight seniors made a plan to break into the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit in the diamond district of London while drinking and eating fish and chips in a pub in 2012, according to the New York Post.
Hatton Garden is famous as London’s jewelry quarter and as the hub of the diamond trade in the United Kingdom.
— New York Post (@nypost) April 27, 2019
Three years after concocting the plan, the elderly men bought a diamond-tipped drill and a copy of “Forensics for Dummies,” a primer on crime-scene investigation to learn about DNA detection on crime scenes, and they burrowed into the underground safety deposits.
The elderly men had already served prison terms for many offenses, including armed robbery. Before they broke into the security deposits, they were considered out of the game and seemed happy just hanging around and remembering the good old days.
“This represented a final hurrah,” author of the book, “The Last Job: The ‘Bad Grandpas’ and the Hatton Garden Heist,” Dan Bilefsky told The New York Post.
“They were motivated by cash, but, at a time in life when many of their contemporaries lived in nursing homes, the excitement of a final heist got their hearts going,” Bilefsky said.
The gang watched YouTube videos to learn how to use the drill and practiced drilling in a plumbing shop. Adequately prepared, the gang set off their task on a Thursday during the long Easter weekend of 2015.
The seniors had trash cans to load the jewels, and at about 8:30 p.m. they broke the security cameras, disabled the alarms, and started drilling into the wall.
The drilling took hours, and finally when they broke through the wall, they came across the steel backs of the security deposit boxes. They tried to puncture through the steel but their tool broke. Disappointed by the failure, the elderly robbers decided to return home for some sleep.
In the next few days, the group looked for a more powerful hydraulic ram to break through the steel. By Sunday two of them had given up and left the project, but the rest decided to continue undaunted.
“They felt that they had nothing to lose,” said Bilefsky. “There was a brazenness that was born of age.”
The six remaining men eventually penetrated the steel boxes and looted 70 boxes. The robbery wasn’t noticed until Tuesday morning. “It was like a bomb hit the place,” a security guard said according to the Post.
Law enforcement set into action to find the criminals, but the study of “Forensics for Dummies” had helped the gang, who didn’t leave even a single fingerprint at the crime scene.
The “Bad Grandpas” had done everything they could do to evade the police, but they had forgotten about the CCTV cameras along the city streets and in public places.
The detectives got their first major clue by following CCTV footage of the gang’s automobiles.
The gang had stored their loot in odd places—even in kitchen utensils, and also under the tombstone of one gang member’s girlfriend’s father. Six weeks later, the gang started to discuss splitting the loot. They were meeting to claim their respective shares when the police raided the place.
All eight men were caught, and seven received prison sentences of seven years each, while the eighth received a suspended sentence. All throughout the case, however, the “Bad Grandpas” kept getting public sympathy.
“[The gang members] didn’t hurt anyone and there was a feeling of good on them,” said Bilefsky.
“If they bore a hole through Belmarsh (prison where they are serving sentence), that would be impressive. But I don’t think they will be escaping anytime soon,” the author said.