News World The pensioners behind Britain’s biggest vault heist
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The pensioners behind Britain’s biggest vault heist

Metropolitan Police
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At 76, Brian Reader just couldn’t settle into retired life.

So, while drinking with his mates at Islington’s Castle pub in north London, he orchestrated the biggest heist in British history.

The Hatton Garden raid saw Reader and his band of merry pensioners steal £14 million ($A26.5 million) worth of gold, jewels and cash from a safe-deposit business in London last Easter.

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Reader suffered a fall in prison recently, and was too ill to attend the sentencing hearing last Wednesday – but his cohorts John Collins (75), Terry Perkins (67) and William Lincoln (60) were on hand to receive seven-year jail terms for their involvement.

Carl Wood, 59, received a six-year sentence.

The safe deposit firm the men targeted. Photo: Dominic Linpinski/PA Wire
The safe deposit firm the men targeted. Photo: Dominic Linpinski/PA Wire

Hugh Doyle, the baby of the bunch at 49, was given a 21-month jail term, suspended for two years.

On the day of the heist, Reader took the bus to the crime scene – using his senior citizen’s bus pass to travel for free.

But that’s not to suggest the gang aren’t up with modern technology. The court heard they had watched YouTube videos to learn techniques for drilling through the vault wall.

There was even a hint of Hollywood about the job – with the men giving each other nicknames like Mr Strong, Mr Ginger and The Gent, reminiscent of the Quentin Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs.

But the gang was arrested in May following a Scotland Yard investigation.

With so many men falling prey to depression after retirement, Reader and his friends even won the admiration of the sentencing judge for their efforts to stay busy.

Judge Christopher Kinch said the burglary “stands in a class of its own in the scale of the ambition, the detail of the planning, the level of preparation and the organisation of the team carrying it out, and in terms of the value of the property stolen”.

The hole the men bored to access the vault. Photo: Metropolitan Police
The hole the men bored to access the vault. Photo: Metropolitan Police

Prosecuting lawyer Ed Hall described the gang as a tight group of “experienced” criminals.

Clockwise from top left: Terry Perkins, John Collins, Daniel Jones, Carl Wood, William Lincoln and Hugh Doyle. Photo: Metropolitan Police
Clockwise from top left: Terry Perkins, John Collins, Daniel Jones, Carl Wood, William Lincoln and Hugh Doyle. Photo: Metropolitan Police

The men carried out the robbery on Thursday April 2 last year, and over the Easter weekend they opened 73 locked boxes where jewellers had stored their stock for the holiday.

They wore hard hats and, disguising themselves as gas workers, they abseiled down a lift shaft before using an industrial drill to break through a concrete wall half a metre thick.

Thus far only $A7 million worth of the loot has been recovered.

Messrs Collins, Perkins, Lincoln and Wood will be hoping for some time off for good behaviour, should they have a few trinkets stashed away under a mattress somewhere.

It seems doubtful Reader will get to enjoy his ill-gotten gains.

His lawyer James Scobie told the court his “extremely ill” client may “not have many months to live”.

Reader was reportedly suffering from cancer and had suffered a stroke and septicaemia.

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