‘Peaky Blinders’ gang who raided display at Dutch art fair ‘stole a £23MILLION necklace’
Smartly dressed armed robbers who carried out a brutal daylight robbery yesterday at an international art fair in the southern Dutch city of Maastricht, are said to have made off with a necklace that is said to be worth no less than 27 million euros.
Startling video footage showed how the thieves, with their flat caps, akin to those of Tommy Shelby and co. in the popular historical crime drama “Peaky Blinders,” they used a sledgehammer to smash their way into a jewelry display case before fleeing.
Dutch media said the display case targeted by the robbers contained diamond jewelery and other items from London jewelers Symbolic and Chase, who were displaying their wares at The European Fine Art Fair (Tefaf).
Dramatic videos show the four suspects wearing flat caps, glasses and jackets threatening visitors with what appeared to be pistols during the robbery before running away.
A witness to the robbery told the Dutch outlet NRC that the allegedly stolen necklace was valued at €27 million by one of the exhibitors at the art fair.
Police said yesterday that they had arrested two Belgian suspects shortly after the robbery, but declined to say whether they had anything to do with the case.
The Belgian’s lawyer insisted that there was a misunderstanding and that his clients denied any involvement.
Police found no evidence of jewelry or weapons in their car, and the search for the perpetrators and stolen items continues.
The necklace in question is not listed on Symbolic and Chase’s collection website, and the exchange’s spokesman could neither confirm nor deny that the piece was indeed stolen.
The jeweler has been contacted for comment.
A witness to the robbery told Dutch outlet NRC that the allegedly stolen necklace was valued at €27 million by one of the exhibitors at the art fair.
The necklace believed to have been stolen yesterday is pictured here in a still from an Instagram story
Video of the scene showed a man wearing a blazer and baseball cap using a sledgehammer to smash the glass display case of a jewelry store (left). The man is seen repeatedly in the display case while three other men, also dressed in blazers, stand guard around him – one of whom appears to be holding a gun (right)
The armed robbers destroyed the showcase of a jewelry stall at the stock exchange on Tuesday
Dutch police officers stand guard at the entrance of The European Fine Art Fair in Maastricht on Tuesday after the robbery
Video of the scene showed one of the smartly dressed men using a sledgehammer to break the glass display case of the London jewelery stand.
The suspect is seen repeatedly hitting the armored glass at least 12 times as burglar alarms blared, while three other men, also dressed in blazers, flat caps and goggles, stood guard around him.
A member of the audience runs up to the men and picks up a vase full of flowers, apparently intending to hurl it at the robbers.
But two of the men on guard waved what looked like guns, causing the brave member of the audience to drop the vase and slowly back away.
The hammer-wielding suspect eventually slammed through the glass and reached inside to pick up something before putting it in a bag.
The men then ran past a stunned elderly man, who had been sitting on a bench nearby during the drama.
The public was quickly evacuated from the exchange after the robbery before it reopened later.
The prestigious fair is held in a conference center in Maastricht, where displays of precious art and jewelery attract buyers and collectors from all over the world.
It is scheduled for June 25-30.
A member of the audience runs up to the men and grabs a vase of flowers and appears to be ready to throw it at the robbers (left). But one of the men on guard runs up to the man, pointing to what appears to be a gun. The audience member quickly drops the vase and runs away from the robbers. Then we see the four armed robbers running away (right)
Pictured: The vandalized display case that was destroyed by the armed robbers
Visitors stand outside the international art and antiques fair Tefaf Maastricht after it was evicted after the robbery on Tuesday
“No one was injured and the robbers seized property,” the police of the province of Limburg said in a statement.
Police closed nearby roads and a major road tunnel to hunt the suspects immediately after, they said.
four Police cars stopped a gray car with a foreign registration number on the nearby A2 motorway and officers arrested two suspects.
‘The police investigation, which started immediately after the robbery, has led to two arrests… The police investigation is in full swing. The focus is on tracking down the two other suspects.’
A visitor, Jos Stassen, told the NOS that he had gone to the exhibition on Tuesday to look at the art in peace.
“Normally it’s very quiet… serene. But now I suddenly heard a lot of noise and I turned around and suddenly saw those men,” the NOS quoted him as saying.
“One started hitting and the others kept people away, scared everyone. I also saw a weapon. It went really fast and it lasted a very short time, but I’m still shaking a little.’
Another eyewitness said she saw one person holding a gun and another a sledgehammer during the robbery.
Julie Bartholomeus, from Maastricht, told De Limburger: ‘I thought very quickly to leave. My mother was a little further away, so I picked her up and we ran to the first exit.’
Visitors stand outside the international art and antiques fair Tefaf Maastricht after it was evicted after the armed robbery on Tuesday
Police at international art and antiques fair Tefaf Maastricht after eviction
Bystanders gather outside the Tefaf Art Fair in Maastricht on Tuesday after the robbery
Tefaf is one of the largest art fairs in Europe and regularly attracts tens of thousands of visitors.
The exchange’s security teams worked quickly to disarm an violator and the Dutch police were on the scene within minutes. No one was injured during the incident,” a Tefaf spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
The exchange had “robust procedures in the event of a security breach,” it said.
“These were closely monitored and all visitors, exhibitors and staff were safely evacuated. The stock market has now reopened,” it added.
The fair and the MECC conference center where it will be held “cooperated with authorities” and declined to comment further, it said.
The stock exchange has been running for over 30 years and returned this year after a hiatus due to the Covid pandemic.
Art detective Arthur Brand said he believes the robbers could be from Eastern Europe.
He said: ‘The sheer courage of committing a robbery and attacking display cases with a claw hammer on the overcrowded Tefaf, disguised with caps and mustaches, reminds me of an Eastern European method.
“There are gangs in Eastern Europe that have specialized in this method.”
Tefaf shows hundreds of works, including a 17th-century drawing by a Dutch old master that is for sale for a million euros.
It is not the first time that the fair has been the target of criminals.
A ring and diamond necklace worth €860,000 (then £741,000) from a London jeweler were stolen at the exhibition in 2011.