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Thursday, 11 January 2018

'We feared it was a terror attack': Witnesses describe 'total panic' after five masked robbers with guns and axes 'open fire' at Ritz Hotel in Paris before making off with £4.2million of jewellery

  • Masked raiders armed with axes, sledgehammers and guns attacked the Ritz in Paris at 6.30pm, Wednesday
  • The gang used their weapons to smash their way through reinforced glass cabinets holding the jewels 
  • Three members of the gang were arrested at the scene but two managed to escape with £4.2million haul
  • Witnesses described 'total panic' breaking out and some reported hearing gunshots as men raided cabinets

  • Witnesses to the robbery at the Ritz hotel in Paris, which saw a gang of axe-wielding thugs 'open fire' and steal up to £4.2 million of jewellery, feared they had been caught up in a terror attack.
    Five hooded men smashed through reinforced glass cabinets at the hotel, near the chic Place Vendome in the French capital, as terrified guests watched on at about 6.30pm last night.
    Hotel guests described 'total panic' breaking out and some reported hearing gunshots as the men raided display cases in the hotel's Reza jewellery shop. 
    Shoppers alerted police who descended on the scene and used Tasers as they arrested three of the robbers before they could flee. But two gang members were able to escape with the massive haul. 
    One left the scene on a moped, hitting and injuring a woman as he sped off, while the second drove off in a Renault Mégane along nearby Rue Saint-Honoré, according to local media.
    The hotel is located beside the French Justice Ministry which is guarded by armed soldiers around the clock. 

    Masked attackers raided the Ritz Hotel in Paris at 6.30pm local time on Wednesday, smashing their way into the luxury hotel 

    Masked attackers raided the Ritz Hotel in Paris at 6.30pm local time on Wednesday, smashing their way into the luxury hotel 

    The raiders broke their wayinto the exclusive hotel using axes and sledgehammers. Pictures show broken windows at the scene

    Manhunt: Police in Paris are still searching for two armed robbers this morning following last night's raid

    Manhunt: Police in Paris are still searching for two armed robbers this morning following last night's raid

    Shots were heard as at least five raiders rushed into the five-star 'palace' brandishing weapons, as frightened staff and guests were told to lie on the floor.
    'The attackers then used axes to smash open reinforced glass cases containing jewellery, while filling bags,' said a source at the world famous hotel.
    'As they tried to get away, police officers arrived, and three of the robbers were pulled to the ground and then arrested.

    'Two others got out the back door of the hotel, and were seen running away, and then getting on mopeds.'
    It was at around 6.30pm that guests drinking in the Hemingway Bar, at the back of the hotel, first heard the commotion.
    'Bar staff told everybody to remain calm, and not to do anything stupid. Some clients were ushered down into the basement for safety. Shots from what sounded like a handgun were heard at one point.
    'There were initial fears that a terrorist attack was going on, but it soon became clear that it was a robbery. Two others got out the back door of the hotel, and were seen running away, and then getting on mopeds.' 
    The three arrested men were all aged about 40, according to Le Parisien, which reported that they were known to police.

    The raid took place at the Ritz hotel in Paris at 6.30pm local time on Wednesday and involved five raiders, two of whom escaped 

    The raid took place at the Ritz hotel in Paris at 6.30pm local time on Wednesday and involved five raiders, two of whom escaped 
    Witnesses described 'total panic' breaking out and some reported hearing gunshots as the men raided the display cases in the hotel's Reza jewellery shop 

    Witnesses described 'total panic' breaking out and some reported hearing gunshots as the men raided the display cases in the hotel's Reza jewellery shop 

    One sped off on a moped, hitting and injuring a woman as he sped off, while the second drove off in a Renault Mégane along nearby Rue Saint-Honoré, according to local media 
    One sped off on a moped, hitting and injuring a woman as he sped off, while the second drove off in a Renault Mégane along nearby Rue Saint-Honoré, according to local media 

    Police sources estimated the value of the robbers' haul as being worth 'at least' the equivalent of £4million. 
    The glass containers were all in a corridor leading towards the Hemingway bar.
    Security at the Ritz was reinforced in 2014 after a series of daylight robberies on jewellery shops in the Place Vendome.
    The hotel is next door to France's Justice Ministry, where soldiers stand guard 24 hours a day.
    The Ritz, which re-opened in 2016 after a four-year refurbishment, is owned by the Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed. 
    Paris is notorious for high-end armed robberies, with many taking place around five-star palace hotels such as the Ritz. 
    A police source said: 'World-famous jewellers display their jewellery at the Ritz.'

    Award winning 9/11 French novelist caught up in the drama  

    Award winning French author Frederic Beigbeder was among those who witnessed today's raid. 
    Beigbeder, 52, who won international awards for his 9/11 novel Windows on the World was drinking in the Hemingway bar at the time of the raid. 
    His novel, which focused on a father and his two children who were facing death in the World Trade Center during the Al Qaeda terrorist attacks, won an Independent Foreign Fiction award for his work.   

    Two of the gang were spotted escaping from the scene. Police in Paris have launched a major investigation and are continuing their manhunt this morning
    Two of the gang were spotted escaping from the scene. Police in Paris have launched a major investigation and are continuing their manhunt this morning

    KIM KARDASHIAN AND CANNES DIAMONDS: FRANCE'S BIGGEST JEWELLERY HEISTS

    After four million euros (£4.2million) worth of jewels were stolen from Paris's Ritz hotel, here is a recap of some of France's biggest jewellery heists in the past 10 years. 
    A CUSTOMER IN CANNES
    Victim: Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint in October 2016 by thieves who make off with jewellery worth £8m
    Victim: Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint in October 2016 by thieves who make off with jewellery worth £8m
    In January 2017 a man walks into a boutique in the French resort town and is greeted as a customer before pulling out a gun and making off with 15 million euros worth of jewellery.
    SWITCH 
    A thief posing as a client switches two rough diamonds and two rings, worth around 5.5 million euros, with fakes at a Swiss jeweller's private showroom in Paris in December 2016. He is arrested in Romania the following month.
    FROM THE AIRPORT
    In November 2016 masked robbers hold up two Qatari women in their 60s who are in a chauffeur-driven Bentley having just landed at a Paris airport. Jewels and other items worth more than five million euros are stolen.
    KIM KARDASHIAN
    The US reality television star is tied up and robbed at gunpoint in October 2016 by thieves who make off with jewellery worth at least nine million euros. She is in Paris for Fashion Week and staying in a luxury residence.
    CANNES AGAIN
    Four robbers, one wearing the mask of an elderly person, steal 17.5 million euros in jewellery and watches from a boutique in May 2015 just days before the start of the city's international film festival.
    PARIS AIRPORT TAXI 
    In April 2015 thieves make off with a handbag containing four million euros worth of Chanel jewels in a smash-and-grab attack on a taxi between Paris and Charles De Gaulle airport.
    The victim is a Taiwanese art collector.
    HIGHWAY HOLD-UP
    Around 15 robbers stop two vans at a toll booth on the A6 motorway in March 2015, near the central city of Auxerre, and make off with jewellery worth around nine million euros.
    CANNES DIAMOND DISPLAY
    In July 2013 a man armed with a semi-automatic pistol and his head covered with a cloth walks into the Carlton hotel and steals jewels that were part of an exhibition and worth 103 million euros. It is the largest jewellery heist in France.
    OTHERS 
    - In February 2010 a thief steals a handbag with 4.5 million euros in jewels from the daughter of a mayor of Kiev being driven into Paris from an airport.
    - In May 2010 armed robbers walk off with seven million euros in gems after taking a jewel wholesaler and his family hostage in a town near Marseille.
    - In July 2009 three men take 15 millions euros worth of jewels in a hold-up of a Cartier store in Cannes.
    - In May 2009 a lone robber enters the exclusive Chopard jewellery store in Paris's upmarket central Place Vendome and leaves with 6.8 million euros of jewellery.
    - Three men steal around 900 pieces from the Harry Winston jewellery boutique on Paris's chic Avenue Montaigne in December 2008. Some are recovered but the loss is estimated at nearly 79 million euros. Fifteen men linked to the crime are eventually jailed.Interior minister Gerard Collomb praised officers' 'professionalism' saying they had 'done our police force credit'.
    One hotel employee told AFP: 'We heard a loud noise and lots of racket in the street. Passers-by took refuge in the hotel. We didn't know what was going on until someone told us there had been a robbery.'
    Another employee said he saw a motorbike speed along a road at the back of the hotel after the break-in.
    Place Vendome, with its opulent window displays, has been the scene of several audacious daytime raids.
    In March 2016, two robbers stole an estimated £4.5million worth of jewels from luxury fashion brand Chopard after threatening employees with a gun and grenade. Three men were charged in connection with that heist.
    The French capital's most high-profile recent jewellery theft was carried out in October 2016 against US reality television star Kim Kardashian.
    Five men, some wearing jackets with police insignia, held Kardashian at gunpoint, making off with several pieces of gold and diamond jewellery as well as a ring - a total estimated worth of nine million euros.
    One of the robbers, fleeing the scene on a bicycle, dropped a diamond-encrusted cross worth £25,000 which was found by a passer-by a few hours later.
    More jewels and watches were found in a bag dropped by one of the two suspects still at large, the source added, without being able to give an estimate for the value of the goods retrieved. 
    The Ritz was founded by Swiss hotelier César Ritz in 1898 and has been a focus of high society ever since.
    Diana, Princess of Wales, dined in the hotel's Imperial Suite shortly before her death in a car crash in August 1997.
    Its retail gallery boasts several jewellers' as well as designer goods shops.
    A superior room costs from £885 a night, while a 'grand deluxe' room starts at £1,240.
    The Paris prefecture launched an immediate investigation. 
    Among those caught up in the drama at the Ritz was the celebrated French writer Frederic Beigbeder, 52.
    The author, who wrote the prize-winning Windows on the World, was enjoying a drink in the Hemingway Bar when he heard shots.
    He was one of those who took refuge in the basement of the hotel, emerging when the gunfire had stopped.
    The bar is named after the American writer Ernest Hemingway, who used to drink there with friends including Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald and the actor Gary Cooper.
    Hemingway famously 'liberated' the bar after arriving in Paris on a tank at the end of the German Occupation in 1944.

    Paris Ritz hotel history 

    The Ritz was founded by Swiss hotelier César Ritz in 1898 and has been a focus of high society ever since.
    Diana, Princess of Wales, dined in the hotel's Imperial Suite shortly before her death in a car crash in August 1997.
    Its retail gallery boasts several jewellers' as well as designer goods shops.
    A superior room costs from £885 a night, while a 'grand deluxe' room starts at £1,240.

    Three members of the gang were captured inside the hotel, pictured, but two robbers were able to escape with their haulThree members of the gang were captured inside the hotel, pictured, but two robbers were able to escape with their haul
    Three members of the gang were captured inside the hotel, pictured, but two robbers were able to escape with their haul

    Police quickly arrived at the scene and arrested three of the raiders before  starting a search for the two who escaped
    Police quickly arrived at the scene and arrested three of the raiders before  starting a search for the two who escaped

    The raiders smashed their way into glass cases containing the jewels and tried to fill bags with the stolen merchandise 
    The raiders smashed their way into glass cases containing the jewels and tried to fill bags with the stolen merchandise 

    Security at the hotel had been increased in recent years following a string of high-profile raids targeting jewels in Paris 
    Security at the hotel had been increased in recent years following a string of high-profile raids targeting jewels in Paris 



    Is this the latest attack of the notorious Pink Panthers?

    The Pink Panther jewellery gang consist of former soldiers from Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia and Bosnia who fought in the civil war in the 1990s following the collapse of Yugoslavia.
    The gang received their nickname following a robbery in London in 2003 when they hid a diamond in a tub of beauty cream - in a similar fashion to the plot of the Pink Panther movies featuring an inept French police detective played by Peter Sellers. 
    In total, international police forces believe the gang has managed to steal more than £370 million since 1999 in more than 380 armed robberies across the globe. 
    Nebojsa Denic, left, and Milan Jovetic, 24, were two members of the Pink Panther gang who were jailed in 2004 following a £23 million raid on a jewellers in Mayfair the previous year. Denic received a 14-year jail term at the Old Bailey while Jovetic was sentenced to five years. The mastermind known as Marco from Montenegro managed to escape with the bulk of the jewels

    This image released by Interpol shows a member of the gang spraying CS gas at workers in a jewellery shop in Tokyo 
    This image released by Interpol shows a member of the gang spraying CS gas at workers in a jewellery shop in Tokyo 

    Here members of the Pink Panther gang drive their cars into a shopping centre in Dubai during their daylight robbery 
    Here members of the Pink Panther gang drive their cars into a shopping centre in Dubai during their daylight robbery 
    The Pink Panthers have been linked to crimes across Europe, Dubai and even a robbery in Japan.   
    In 2010, the gang took less than 35 seconds to steal £2 million of gold and jewels from a store in Tokyo. 
    In 2014 the leader of the gang Borko Ilincic, a 33-year-old Serbian, was detained by officers from the National Police in the town of Alcala de Henares, just outside Madrid. 
     In 2007, Interpol launched Project Pink Panthers to target the gang. According to their intelligence, the gang consists of some 800 members who have carried out raids across 35 countries.
    William Labruyère, Coordinator of INTERPOL's Project Pink Panthers, said the amount of criminal activity linked to the gang has decreased in recent years, in large part due to the efforts of the global police community leading to the arrest of many of the gang's top figures. 

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