Portland Tiara Theft: A plastic bag was 'blown open' by a woman who bought a Tiara in Portland

A number of men were found guilty of raiding the home of Ashley Cole, former footballer, and stealing a PS3.

Portland Tiara Theft: A plastic bag was 'blown open' by a woman who bought a Tiara in Portland

A number of men were found guilty of raiding the home of Ashley Cole, former footballer, and stealing a PS3.5m Tiara. BBC News examines how this case turned out.

It looks like something out of classic crime fiction. The multi-million-pound, diamond-encrusted, tiara was made for an imperial coronation and was stolen from its home display case in the middle of the night.

The raid was carried out by an armed gang, which made headlines. But it was only the beginning of a much darker conspiracy.

It revealed the story of secret filming and smuggled jewels, as well as a group that was specialized in violent burglaries -- including two ex-england footballers.

At 22:00 GMT, the alarms went off at Portland Collection Gallery, Nottinghamshire, on the Welbeck Estate on the 20th of November 2018.

Gayle Hart, Det Insp Gayle Hart's investigator, stated that "the security at Welbeck was some of the most effective I've ever seen."

"But this was an audacious theft, more than a decade in the planning."

Three people were seen approaching the gallery from the rear via a CCTV camera. They had driven across fields to get there.

They smashed through a ground-floor window and then made a crawl hole through the metal security door to reach the main gallery.

They used a smaller saw and had a depth gauge to ensure that nothing was damaged.

Security had seen the gang on CCTV, and called for help. However, the suspects drove away from the police station just seconds before they arrived.

The entire incident took less than eight minutes from the moment the alarms sounded to begin.

Just hours later, the getaway car was discovered burned to ashes.

In 1902, the Duke of Portland ordered the tiara for his wife to wear during the coronation Queen Alexandra and Edward VII. Cartier made the diamonds, which were mined in 1800s.

At Nottingham Crown Court, the gang was accused of stealing it together with a brooch made from diamonds during the renovation of the tiara. They had a combined total value of PS3.75m.

Prosecutor Michael Brady QC stated that it was difficult to overstate their cultural and historical value.

These were the trophy pieces in the gallery's exhibit; they were extremely valuable, rare and significant historical items. They were made available for public enjoyment.

"Their theft is shocking and will ensure they are never seen again in their original condition."

Det Insp Hart stated: "The nation's history was marked by the tiara.

Its loss is terrible. It was my personal mission to discover who did this.

"Me and my colleague put off retiring because we were determined to see it through."

The raid not only resulted in the loss of an heirloom but also led to police being involved in crimes that were darker and more violent.

Initial investigations led to an already well-known man being arrested by police. Ashley Cumberpatch had been arrested more than 12 months ago for firearms offenses.

A GoPro camera that captured video footage of him walking with a child through the Welbeck estate was one of the items found during this arrest.

He was seen walking around the gallery, as well as the nearby grounds, including the rear windows.

Det Insp Hart stated that "that footage, when it was looked at, we considered it some reconnaissance by the suspect."

"It was designed to target access points, such as the gallery or the tiara.

"This gave us important lines of inquiry very quickly; it was crucial."

Cumberpatch was arrested and an examination of his cell phone revealed calls to other defendants including Kurtis Dailks before and after the burglary.

Police also searched several addresses that had links to Cumberpatch. One property was located in Dove Street, Nottingham.

Andrew MacDonald was found here with what police called a burglary toolkit, which included handcuffs and lock picking equipment, as well as cable ties and handcuffs.

MacDonald confessed to a number of drug offenses, and police checked his phone records while he was in custody.

Police received numerous calls from Hatton Gardens in London. This area is famous for its jewelry stores.

They teamed up with the Met to find Paris Jewels and raided its premises in May 2019.

Here, Sercan Evsin was arrested along with Tevfik Gucuk.

According to the court, the brooch and tiara were thought to have been taken from the country by Guccuk to Turkey. They were left behind at Paris Jewels.

Officers found PS500,000 worth of watches and jewellery in a plastic bag.

Although initially believed to be a local burglary, the FA Cup runners-up trophy attracted particular interest.

Det Insp Hart stated: "Our inquiry group actually discovered that it was the property stolen in a tie-up Robbery at Caythorpe involving Jo Dixon and her son.

"So, we actually recovered the jewellery from burglary in Nottinghamshire Hatton Garden.

"That really opened the case; that was our golden nugget."

Six months after the theft of the tiara, the Caythorpe robbery took place.

Ms. Dixon was alone in her family home while her husband was away playing. She was in bed with her infant boy when two men in balaclavas entered her bedroom.

They made her lead them to safes before she was forced to lay her son on the bed.

They left with PS500,000 worth jewellery and handbags including her wedding and engagement rings.

It was obvious that high-value burglaries were being committed in the Midlands by MacDonald, and his associates who traveled to Paris Jewels.

The burglaries were carried out in a very simple manner. Gangs would use a ladder to gain access to first-floor windows, then use violence and threats to force homeowners to give up their items.

Each one was different, however.

One of the gang attacked Martin Wardle's Carlton home as he returned late at nights to his house.

He and his wife were forced inside and tied with cable ties. Mr Wardle also had his right earlobe trimmed with wire cutters to extract valuable information.

The gang was unhappy with the amount of money they had found and forced him to climb into the backseat of his car. They drove him to his mother's home in Nottingham's Park.

They ransacked the house before abandoning Wardle at his home.

"Throughout this time, they were threatening him with death, assaulting and telling him not to call police because he was being monitored," stated Det Insp Hart.

It is shocking and upsetting. He and his wife are held back and can't resist the violence.

The raid on Ashley Cole's Surrey home in January 2020 was the most prominent.

The gang was spotted on CCTV, and they warned that the police were being called.

They broke into Mr Cole's house and bound his partner with cable ties. They threatened to cut off Mr Cole's fingers if they didn't give them any valuables.

It must have been very traumatic for Mr Cole's partner.

Det Insp Hart said, "They could hear them coming up the stairs. They had their children in arms."

"The gang knew that the police were coming, but they threatened Mr Cole."

"He believed they were going to kill his partner and him."

Each attack produced crucial evidence. The DNA of Mr Cole's cable ties and the knife found at his house contained DNA that could be traced back to Kurtis Dilks, a Nottingham man.

He was also connected to a folding ladder that was found at Mr Wardle's home.

Three and a quarter years later, the theft of the Tiara was committed. After a nearly two-month trial, Cumberpatch and Dilks were convicted.

Det Insp Hart stated, "You absolutely must consider them as dangerous." They were equipped with knives and held one victim's neck in their hands.

"They have cutters and they've gone to these addresses with a sledgehammer.

"They have threatened and even carried out some serious violence."

The story is not over. Police are still asking for any additional information.

The tiara was never recovered.

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