LONDON (Reuters) - A gang of ageing criminals, who carried out an audacious multi-million pound raid on a safe-deposit business in London's jewellery district last year, were jailed on Wednesday for their role in the largest-ever burglary in English legal history.
As the gang, led by pensioners who had spent a life in crime, were sentenced for the daring heist at the Hatton Garden Safety Deposit building last Easter, police reissued an appeal to find a mystery man known as "Basil", who was at the centre of the plot, and the whereabouts of much of the stolen loot.
"It is clear that the burglary at the heart of this case stands in a class of its own in the scale of the ambition, the detail of the planning, the level of preparation, the organising of the team to carry it out and in terms of the value of property stolen," said judge Christopher Kinch.
On April 2 last year, the gang met at the safety deposit building and were let in by Basil.
They entered an elevator shaft and climbed down to the vault where they used heavy equipment to drill through a thick concrete wall.
Initially thwarted, they returned the following day and ransacked 73 deposit boxes, stealing gold, silver, diamonds and jewellery worth 14 million pounds.
John Collins, 75, Terry Perkins, 67, Daniel Jones, 59 and William Lincoln, 60, were jailed for seven years and Carl Wood, 59, received a six-year prison term for conspiracy to burgle at London's Woolwich Crown Court. Hugh Doyle, 49, was given a 21-month sentence suspended for two years.
Brian Reader, the oldest at 76 and one of the ringleaders, who used a senior citizens bus pass to get to the scene of the crime, was too ill to be sentenced on Wednesday.
Many of the gang had previous convictions, most notably Reader who was jailed over a notorious 1983 heist at the Brink's-Mat high security vault at Heathrow Airport when 26 million pounds worth of gold bars was stolen.
"There may be people out there who have a bit of sympathy in relation to those that were sentenced today," said Detective Superintendent Craig Turner, head of the London police's Flying Squad. "However, these were all career, callous criminals."
He said two-thirds of the stolen haul had not been recovered and there was a reward of 20,000 pounds for the capture and conviction of Basil.
Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Stephen Addison