Scotland Yard say they have found highly valuable property stolen during the Hatton Garden heist stashed in bags, following a series of coordinated police raids by more than 200 officers which have led to the arrest of nine suspects.
Three pensioners, the oldest aged 76, were among those detained during the raids in London and Kent after Scotland Yard detectives used covert tactics to identify suspects.
One of the addresses being searched was an £800,000 property in Dartford, Kent. Two arrests were made at the property, of males aged 50 and 76. According to official documents, two males called Paul and Brian Reader were registered as living at the address.
Brian Reader. Photograph: PNS/UPPA/Photoshot
A second-hand car dealership was linked to the property, as was a planning application that neighbours said had proved controversial in the area.
The burglary in Hatton Garden over the Easter weekend is believed to have seen millions of pounds worth of jewels, cash and other valuables stolen by a gang who bored through a thick concrete wall to break into a vault containing safety deposit boxes, in the heart of London’s diamond district.
The first set of arrests were made at 10.30am on Tuesday, with a total of 12 addresses raided.
As well as the arrests in Dartford, another four men – aged 48, 58, 67 and 74 – were arrested in Enfield, north London, while a seventh man, aged 59, was arrested in east London.
Two further arrests were made later in north London, of men aged 43 and 58. All nine were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to burgle.
Police said all those arrested were white British males, putting paid to early speculation that an east European gang may have been behind the robbery.
In a sign of the confidence of detectives, Scotland Yard said high-value property found at one address matched that stolen from Hatton Garden.
“A number of large bags containing significant amounts of high-value property have been recovered from one address. Officers are confident these are items stolen during the burglary,” the Metropolitan police said.
During the heist the gang rifled through 72 secure boxes believed to contain millions of pounds’ worth of cash, jewels and other valuables.
Police have denied being “keystone cops” after they failed to respond to an alarm from the building housing the vault which went off while the gang were trying to break into the strong room.
Some inside the police questioned whether detectives would be able to gain much intelligence to arrest suspects, given the decline over the past decades in such “old school” crimes and cuts to flying squad staff numbers.
However, Scotland Yard will be buoyed by the squad’s role in the arrests and the apparent recovery of stolen property.
Police car is seen outside the house in Dartford where two Hatton Garden raid suspects were arrested. Photograph: Jamie Grierson for the Guardian
The gang left behind tools, including drills, crowbars and angle-grinders used to force the boxes open. Officers have been trying to find out why only 72 of 999 boxes were opened.
In announcing the arrests, police apologised for failing to respond to the alarm.
Cdr Peter Spindler said: “At times we have been portrayed as if we’ve acted like ‘Keystone Cops’. But I want to reassure you that in the finest traditions of Scotland Yard these detectives have done their utmost to bring justice for the victims of this callous crime.
“They have worked tirelessly and relentlessly. They have put their lives on hold over the last six or seven weeks to make sure that justice is served and they have exemplified the finest attributes of Scotland Yard detectives.”
Spindler said the Met’s call-handling procedures were not followed when the alarm went off.
“Our normal procedures would have resulted in police attending the scene and we apologise that this did not happen. In this case, the owners had been notified by the alarm company and a security guard attended the building but saw nothing more than our officers would have done had they been deployed.”
Det Supt Craig Turner, head of the flying squad, asked for patience from victims of the heist eager to get their property back.
“Police officers will be in contact with them in order that we can restore this property back to their rightful owners. Please be patient in relation to this,” he said.
Forensic experts were given priority at the crime scene, which was left strewn with dust, rubble, and equipment used by the gang. Material they were able to recover, such as DNA and fingerprints, may be crucial to enabling prosecutions.