Diamond thief prepared for £4.2m heist at Cricklewood hotel
- Credit: Met Police
A woman jailed after impersonating a gemmologist in a £4.2million diamond heist used Cricklewood as her base while in the UK.
Lulu Lakatos, 60, from France, was part of an international organised gang, which targeted the Boodles store in New Bond Street and stole seven gems, replacing them with pebbles of the same weight, on March 10 2016.
On Wednesday (July 28) Lakatos was sentenced at Southwark Crown Court to five and a half years in jail after being found guilty of conspiracy to steal.
In the weeks leading up to the raid, meetings were held with Boodles and people purporting to work for a "wealthy Russian investor".
Lakatos played the role of a gemmologist named "Anna" who would travel to London to inspect the gems, the court heard.
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Lakatos entered the country the day before the raid and checked into a hotel in Cricklewood, accompanied by another woman.
At around 8.15pm Lakatos met with two men at a cafe near her hotel, and all three drove into Mayfair to scope out the Boodles store from the street, before Lakatos was dropped back in Cricklewood.
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The following day Lakatos, now dressed as gemmologist Anna, arrived for the pre-arranged meeting at Boodles.
Outside, four other members of the gang were present, observing events, including two men Lakatos had met the previous evening, and two women who have yet to be identified.
Pretending she did not speak English very well, Lakatos and staff at Boodles communicated in French.
After being shown into a secure area in the presence of Boodles' own gemmologist, the seven diamonds were produced for Lakatos to examine. Each was then individually placed in a locked bag and they were to be stored with Boodles until confirmation of the payment was received.
However following Lakatos’s inspection, she placed the bag containing the diamonds in her own handbag.
The Boodles gemmologist immediately challenged her, but Lakatos used the apparent language barrier to cause a delay, before appearing to produce the same locked bag containing the diamonds from her handbag.
In the seconds that Lakatos engineered, she had switched the padlocked bag with a duplicate one already stored within her handbag, containing seven pebbles of the same weight.
The gemmologist raised concerns, and checked Lakatos bag but the padlocked bag was not discovered.
Lakatos left the shop with the staff unaware of what had taken place in front of their own eyes.
As she walked down the street she was followed by the two women. They caught up with her and CCTV footage showed Lakatos transferring the bag to one of the women as they continued to walk.
Further back, the two men followed at a distance.
All the gang members then went their separate ways.
Lakatos took a taxi to a pub near Victoria Station where she changed her clothes in a pub toilet before catching a Eurostar train.
The following day, with concerns of how gemmologist "Anna" had behaved, Boodles had the locked bag in their possession x-rayed.
The items inside appeared to be the same size as the diamonds, but when the bag was opened the pebbles were discovered.
Items taken included a 20.06 carat heart-shaped diamond, valued at £2,215,138 and a 3.03 carat pear-shaped intense purple/pink diamond, valued at £1,106,698.
The valuable stones have never been recovered.
The Met’s Flying Squad analysed hours of CCTV footage and followed the forensic trail left behind by the gang.
Lakatos was identified and arrested in France and extradited back to the UK on December 3 2020.
Acting Det Serg William Man said: “This was an audacious theft, carried out in plain view of experienced and professional staff at a renowned jewellers.
"The meticulous planning and execution of this theft reveals to me that those involved were highly skilled criminals.
“However, due to the tenacious police work of the Flying Squad, involving painstaking analysis of a vast amount of evidence, we have managed to identify Lakatos and bring her to justice.
“While she played a key role in this theft, it is clear she did not work alone and enquiries remain ongoing to identify all those involved.”
Two men involved in the theft were identified and convicted of conspiracy to steal.
An investigation is ongoing for the other two women seen in the exchange with Lakatos.
A third woman, who accompanied Lakatos into the UK, was found not guilty of conspiracy to steal.