$26m jewel heist crim breaks silence

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One of the elderly crims behind a daring 2015 jewel heist has spoken out for the first time to slam the group’s ringleader.

John “Kenny” Collins was one of five men involved in the Easter Bank Holiday raid on the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Company that sparked international headlines and spawned three films and a TV adaptation.

Collins, then 75, along with Daniel Jones, 58, Terry Perkins, 67, Brian Reader, 76, and a mystery man nicknamed “Basil” entered the business through a lift shaft before drilling through the 50cm thick underground vault walls.

They made off with $26 million (£14 million) worth of gold, jewels and cash, much of it still unaccounted for. The experienced thieves were nabbed by detectives of the London Metropolitan Police’s specialist Flying Squad the following month.

Three other men, Carl Wood, 58, William Lincoln, 60, and Hugh Doyle, 48, were found guilty of helping plan the heist, while a fourth man, taxi driver Jon Harbinson, 42, was cleared.

Last year, “Basil” was finally nabbed by police after they raided his Islington flat — alarm specialist Michael Seed, 58, was found guilty of conspiracy to burgle and conspiring to hide the proceeds in March this year.

Collins and Reader are already free while Perkins died in prison last year aged 69.

Speaking to UK broadcaster ITV in a documentary this week, Hatton Garden: The Inside Story, the now 78-year-old Collins is the first of the gang to give a media interview since the robbery.

media_cameraTerry Perkins, top left, John Collins, Daniel Jones and Brian Reader all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary over the Hatton Garden Safety Deposit raid in April 2015. Hugh Doyle, bottom left, was found guilty of concealing, converting or transferring criminal property. William Lincoln and Carl Wood, were convicted of conspiracy to commit burglary, and conspiracy to conceal, convert or transfer criminal property. Picture: MPS/AFP
media_cameraThe gang bored holes through a half-metre thick concrete wall to access a vault in a safe deposit centre in Hatton Garden, London, over the April 2-5 long weekend, making off with gold, jewels and cash from 70 secure boxes. Picture: MPS/AFP

He blamed the now 80-year-old Reader, the mastermind of the heist, for the gang being caught after he refused to return the next day when they failed to penetrate the vault on the first night.

“Maybe if he didn’t, none of us would have got nicked,” Collins told the documentary, according to The Mirror.

Collins said they were halted because a detail in Reader’s plan turned out to be wrong — as they tried to drill into the vault, a steel shelf holding safety deposit boxes turned out to be bolted to the wall, not freestanding.

“Brian said the thing would be freestanding. And when we get it, it’s bolted to the wall. That’s when they stopped, they couldn’t move, couldn’t shift it so they come out that day. That’s when Brian decided not to go back,” he said.

“You don’t just pull out because it suits you. What about us? They spent maybe three years on it. Common sense said we got to go back and give it another half-hour. We got to try and force these bolts. But he pulled out of it.”

Collins said after the heist, the others refused to share any of the loot with Reader. “They wasn’t going to give him a penny, anyway,” he said. “I said we’d give him something but they said, he’s getting f*** all. And he’d been their mate for 30 f***ing years.”

In the documentary, Flying Squad officers explained how they caught the gang after they identified Collins’ black-and-white Mercedes in CCTV footage.

According to The Mirror, Collins agreed to the interview after being annoyed by negative portrayals of him on TV and film — he was described by one gangmate as a “wombat-thick c***” in police recordings.

He told the program he had been in an out of jail all his life. “Being a criminal is a living, innit?” he said. “It’s what you do for a living, like you’re filming, it’s what you do.”

frank.chung@news.com.au

Originally published as $26m jewel heist crim breaks silence

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