Hatton Garden theft: Why plan a raid in your old age?
- 14 January 2016
- From the section London
The Hatton Garden burglary was unquestionably audacious. It was a crime that required cunning, strength and physical fitness.
The gang responsible switched off most of the alarms and security cameras. They clambered down a lift shaft to get to the vault. They spent hours drilling through concrete. They forced open 73 safety deposit boxes.
But this wasn't the work of a gang of young, ambitious criminals.
It was the work of a group of men in their 60s and 70s who came from the old school where plots were formed over a pint in a pub on a Friday night.
So why on earth would they bother with such a complicated crime at their age? Why would they take such a risk?
At a time when most people of their age would be contemplating or enjoying their retirement, the Hatton Garden gang had other ideas.
Forget gardening and cruises. They spent around three years plotting a daring raid.
"You can almost picture the joy and excitement that planning would bring," says David Wilson, professor of criminology at Birmingham City University. "I imagine the more they spoke about it, the more excited they became.
"This was the one last dream job. There is a great deal of excitement in committing this kind of crime. There is a great deal of status attached to it."
Impossible to resist
The four ringleaders of the Hatton Garden theft all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary.
Brian Reader, Terry Perkins, John (Kenny) Collins and Danny Jones have a combined age of 278.
They all have a criminal record of varying degrees of severity and that is significant in understanding why they found the Hatton Garden plot just impossible to resist.
The Dad's Army raiders
- Brian Reader, known as The Master, 76
- Danny Jones, 60
- John (Kenny) Collins, 75
- Terry Perkins, 67
- William Lincoln, aka Billy the Fish, 60
- Hugh Doyle, 48
- Carl Wood, 58
- "Basil", unknown
"The fact that they're in their 60s and 70s shouldn't surprise us because they've previously engaged in criminal enterprise," says Prof Wilson.
"This kind of enterprise gives them excitement, makes them feel alive and takes them out of the banality of their everyday lives."
Most of these men were on many levels your typical group of pensioners.
Brian Reader used a free bus pass. Kenny Collins was the lookout who frustrated others in the gang who said he fell asleep during the raid.
Terry Perkins was a diabetic who took all his medication into the vault with him in case he needed it.
Perkins had also been jailed before for his involvement in another notorious crime back in the 1980s. He was given a sentence of 22 years for his part in the raid on the Security Express Headquarters in east London in 1983.
Also jailed for his role in the Security Express raid was Freddie Foreman. He is now 83 and is reflective about his criminal past but totally understands why the Hatton Garden gang thought they could get away with the burglary.
"If they'd asked me to join them I might have found it hard to say no," he says.
"Even though my legs aren't what they used to be, it's the excitement, the respect you get and it's the thought of doing one last job."
And that seems to be fundamental to this particular crime - the idea of one last thrill. Even at their age they just couldn't resist it.
But their final crime was too ambitious and they were perhaps a bit naive. They underestimated how CCTV and surveillance would ultimately help the police track them down.
This group of unusual suspects couldn't quite pull it off.