Motorway thieves steal French jewels

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Media captionThe BBC's Lucy Williamson says this was a "well-planned" operation and nobody was injured

Armed thieves have seized a reported €9m (£6m; $9.5m) worth of jewels from two armoured lorries at a French motorway toll booth.

As many as 15 hooded attackers seized the vehicles at about midnight on Tuesday on the A6 motorway at Avallon, 220km (140 miles) south-east of Paris.

The drivers were said to be unhurt and the lorries were later found abandoned some distance away.

The gang is reported to have fled in the direction of Paris.

The thieves were said to have waited for the security vehicles at the Avallon toll booth south-east of Auxerre, spraying some form of gas at the drivers when they arrived.

Local reports said the lorries had been carrying a consignment of diamonds, other jewels and works of art between Paris and the eastern city of Besancon.

Police hunt

The burnt-out lorries were being investigated on Wednesday by forensic scientists in a field near Quenne, further north along the A6, just outside Auxerre.

Police have been searching Yonne and neighbouring regions for the attackers.

There have been a number of high-profile jewellery heists in France in recent years, most notably the theft of more than €92m (£65m; $100m) during two separate raids on a Harry Winston store in Paris.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Some of the jewellery taken during the Harry Winston heist was later recovered

Eight men were jailed earlier this year over the double heist. The first theft occurred in 2007, when four men pretending to be builders gained access to the building.

A year later, a gang of thieves again gained access, this time wearing women's clothing and wigs. They stole almost every jewel on display in the store.

In July 2013, about €103m (£89m; $136m) of gems were stolen during a dramatic armed raid at the Carlton Hotel in Cannes.

The gunman seized diamond encrusted watches, necklaces and earrings from an exhibition.

Earlier that year, the Cannes film festival was rocked by two separate robberies, including the theft of a necklace worth €1.9m (£1.6m; $2m).

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