Gunman jailed for 23 years over Britain's biggest jewellery robbery
A gunman who terrified staff at Graff Diamonds as he carried out Britain's biggest jewellery robbery has been jailed for 23 years.
Aman Kassaye planned and executed the ''high stakes'' heist at Graff Diamonds in Mayfair, central London, last summer, in which £40 million of gems were stolen at gunpoint.
He used a professional make-up artist to disguise his appearance and a series of getaway cars to escape across the capital, shooting at anybody who got in his way, Woolwich Crown Court heard.
Kassaye, of no fixed address, was jailed for 16 years for conspiracy to rob, a further five years for possessing a firearm and a further two years for kidnap, a court official said.
Petra Ehnar, a shop assistant at the store in New Bond Street, told the jury she was ''petrified'' when the robbers forced her to empty the store's display cabinets with a gun to her back.
She filled a bag with 43 pieces of jewellery including earrings, necklaces and watches worth a total of £40 million. One diamond necklace alone was valued at £3.5 million. The gems taken in the robbery have never been recovered.
Ms Ehnar, who was forced into the street by the robbers as they made their getaway, was told she would be killed if she did not carry out their demands.
Three other men - Solomun Beyene, 25, of Marylebone, north-west London; Clinton Mogg, 43, of Bournemouth; and Thomas Thomas, 46, of Penrhyn Road, Kingston upon Thames - were each jailed for 16 years after also being convicted of conspiracy to rob, the court official said.
Footage was shown to the jury of Kassaye firing a shot in the street outside the store as passers-by began to realise what was happening, sending them running for cover.
Kassaye's defence rested on his assertion that the raid was carried out "by someone remarkably like him", but he was identified by Ms Ehnar.
She told police: "This was the first time I have ever been subjected to an armed robbery and I was petrified. I was thinking, 'I am going to be shot, killed', I had no idea.
"It is the most terrifying experience a person can be put through as you have no control over the situation that you find yourself in."
Philip Bennetts, for the prosecution, told jurors that after what happened, "his facial features would be etched in her mind forever".
Beyene's role in the heist was to buy so-called dirty telephones and hire a van to use as a blocking vehicle, while Mogg provided the London address used by the make-up artist, who did not know about the planned raid.
Thomas used the blocking vehicles after the heist, the jury was told.
Art Hostage Comments:
DCI Pam Mace of the Met Flying Squad says there is a £1 million reward for the arrest and recovery of the haul.
They said that on the Da Vinci Madonna case and we know what happened there. This reward offer is bogus, with Undercover Police waiting in the wings. No rewards, no payments.
Anyone offering information about the whereabouts of the Graff haul will immediately be put in touch with an Undercover Police officer posing as an insurance agent, or Graff representative.
Proof of life will be asked for to demonstrate Proof of control, so if the sting fails, the person offering proof of life will be arrested and charged with being in control of the Graff haul.
All stolen art, antiques and diamonds are radioactive and best policy is to stay well clear and refuse to offer anyone information as it will always end in a sting and tears all round.
Learn to close your ears to information about art related crime and the whereabouts of stolen art.
Just Say No !!!