THIS is the moment a 60-year-old jewel thief swapped diamonds worth £4.2million for PEBBLES in an Ocean’s Eleven-style con – before blaming her dead sister for the heist.
Lulu Lakatos, 60, who has now been convicted of the biggest jewellery shop caper in British history, posed as gem expert “安娜” at luxury Mayfair store Boodles.
She told staff she’d been sent to value the stones on behalf of supposed wealthy Russian buyers.
But after switching the precious stones for rocks, she made her exit, dumping her glamorous granny disguise in a Wetherspoon toilet and leaving the UK via the Channel Tunnel.
She then blamed her lookalike sister – who died in a car crash – for nabbing the gems.
Lukatos almost got away with the perfect crime – after distracting witnesses with her cleavage in a low-cut dress and donning heavy make-up and a giant hat.
She even fooled Boodle’s chairman Nicholas Wainwright by posing as a gemmologist in a plot fit for Hollywood.
‘GLAM GRAN’ DUMPED DISGUISE AT SPOONS
Mr Wainwright, whose family have run the jewellers for six generations, agreed to let ‘Anna’ visit the basement of his flagship store to inspect precious stones on March 10 2016.
He believed his guest was to buy the gems for Moscow millionaires with links to Israel – but in fact, she was part of a gang travelling Europe trying to rip off jewellers by sleight of hand.
Footage of the crime shows the moment Lakatos made the switch.
The gems were meant to be put inside a padlocked purse and held in the jewellers’ vault until funds were transferred.
But CCTV captures the purse being put inside ‘Anna’s’ handbag – and replaced with a duplicate containing rocks when Mr Wainwright went upstairs to take a call from the ‘Russian purchaser’.
He had already met the apparent buyer, who he knew as ‘Alexander’, over lunch at Monaco’s Hotel Metropole.
Boodles’ own gemmologist Emma Barton – who witnessed the heist – raised her concerns, and Lakatos’ handbag was searched.
然而, the stones weren’t found inside, and she made her escape.
然后, Lakatos moved the stones into the handbag of two unknown women waiting in Ralph Lauren. The suspects were never found.
She then changed her clothes in a pub toilet near Victoria station before leaving London on the Eurostar.
Within three hours, the gang had left the country with the haul, which included a £1.1m three-carat pink diamond.
Lakatos was arrested in France in September last year. But in an extraordinary twist, she told cops her sister Liliana had confessed months before her death to being responsible..
The 60-year-old Romanian said her younger sister had used her passport to travel to the UK and carry out the con.
Liliana wanted to hand herself in to police in Paris – but died in a car smash in Romania before she could do so, the defendant claimed.
Bizarrely, even Ms Barton picked out Liliana as the culprit in an identification procedure.
And Liliana was, 实际上, wanted in Switzerland for an almost identical plot, where an envelope containing 400,000 euros was switched for a duplicate filled with paper.
But this week, Lakatos was convicted of conspiracy to steal, a crime sources say was inspired by 2014 渠道 4 documentary The Million Pound Necklace: Inside Boodles.
同时, the store remains millions of pounds out of pocket as the stones weren’t fully insured.
The heist was discovered when the safe was opened the following day and seven small garden pebbles were found inside.
The real diamonds have never been recovered.
Sentencing Lakatos to five-and-a-half years in prison, Judge Emma Goodall QC, 说: “You have been convicted of conspiring to steal diamonds, the jury having rejected your defence it was your deceased sister and not you who perpetrated the offence.
“This was a highly sophisticated and audacious offence in terms of planning, risk and reward, an offence in respect of which you played an integral role.”
她补充说: “You spent almost an hour in the Boodles London showroom exploiting their trust, which allowed you to engage in a brazen deception and through sleight of hand you stole seven diamonds valued at £4.2m.”
Lakatos, from Saint-Brieuc, 布列塔尼, has three previous convictions for theft in France.
She arrived in London the day before the theft and was captured on CCTV with Georgeta Danila, 53, entering the Cricklewood Lodge Hotel in north London before making a reconnaissance trip to Boodles with Christophe Stankovic and Mickael Jovanovic.
Danila waited in the Willow Walk pub in Victoria with a change of clothes for Lakatos, who went to Boodles disguised in a long dark coat, brimmed hat and long scarf.
UK’S BIGGEST HEIST
Mr Wainwright escorted her down a glass spiral staircase into the meeting room with Ms Barton, where Lakatos examined and weighed the diamonds.
The Boodles chairman said he was “watching her like a hawk” as she wrapped the diamonds individually in pre-cut tissue paper and placed them inside opaque boxes, which were put into a zippable purse-like bag that was padlocked shut.
But Ms Barton said Anna put the locked purse into her own handbag when Mr Wainwright went upstairs to take a call from “Alexander”.
“She watched Nicholas walk up the stairs and as soon as his back was turned on the spiral staircase, she grabbed the bag and stuck it in her handbag,” 她说, giving evidence.
“我说, ‘no, 不, 不, you can’t do that. Please take the diamonds out of your handbag now. I have to be able to see the diamonds at all times’.
“In English, 她回应, ‘It’s OK, don’t worry, there’s nothing to worry about’.”
After the theft, Stankovic and Jovanovic left with the two younger women in a rented car through the Channel Tunnel.
Both men were jailed for three years and eight months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal, while Danila was acquitted after telling a jury she had no idea she was involved in the crime.