The Great Millennium Diamond Robbery
Like a scene from a James Bond movie, the diamond thieves ram-raided London’s Millennium Dome with an industrial digger and burst in to pilfer a priceless collection of diamonds. Gas grenades were thrown, masks donned, and the display case was attacked with sledgehammers and a nail gun. There was even a getaway speedboat waiting – pure Hollywood. The diamond robbers had thought of everything. Well, almost everything...
If only the police hadn’t been waiting…
As with all the best Blockbuster heist movies, the script here includes not only thieves and police but also ‘the nark’. Thanks to an informer, the police had been trailing the thieves for some time and knew exactly what they had in mind. Over 100 police officers were involved in thwarting the robbery, with months of preparation. While the police watched and waiting, they mingled undercover with the crowd at the Dome disguised as tourists, and after hours posed as cleaners, with weapons hidden in bin bags. The police even filmed the hapless thieves inside the Dome plotting and planning. And all that time the robbers thought they’d fashioned a cunning plan. Bless.
De Beers' Millennium Star
So what was it that the thieves were so desperate to get their hands on and that was so priceless that British police felt it necessary to use around 100 officers and five months of surveillance and planning to protect? On display were some of the world’s most stunning diamonds. Centre stage was the De Beers Millennium Star, a 203 carat flawless beauty that has been described as ‘the most beautiful diamond in the world’.
It is also one of the most expensive, being the tenth largest diamond in the world. Surrounding this magnificent gem were 11 other rare blue diamonds, all spectacular in their own right. Together, they are said to have comprised the most spectacular display of diamonds ever shown, anywhere in the world, and the total value was a modest NZ$600,000,000! Well worth fighting for, I think you’d agree.
Once caught, one of the thieves commented that he’d been just “twelve inches from pay day”, but what he’d been actually working to ‘liberate’ that day was not all it seemed: The priceless diamonds had been removed and replaced with worthless crystal fakes. He’d been twelve inches from nothing.
A prosecutor at the thieves’ court case commented that “Had they succeeded, it would have ranked as the biggest robbery in the world in terms of value. It could properly be described as the robbery of the millennium.” Unfortunately for the four men, instead of fame and fortune as The Great Millennium Diamond Robbers, they went to jail for between 5 and 18 years apiece, infamous and still poor.
And in the end, despite the grenades, the speedboat and the precious diamonds, the saga was more The Great Muppet Caper than James Bond. Bless.
Dianne is the blog and Customer Services fairy for online jewellery company 1791 Diamonds Limited, proud supplier of unique, designer diamond engagement rings.