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LONDON — Thieves who carried out a sophisticated, multi-million-dollar heist in London’s jewelry quarter somehow gained access to the building without forcing entry, investigators revealed Thursday.
Once inside, the thieves disabled an elevator, climbed down the device's shaft and used heavy-duty tools to drill through a two-yard-thick reinforced concrete wall into a vault, London’s Metropolitan Police said.
"The scene is chaotic," Detective Chief Inspector Paul Johnson told reporters. "The vault is covered in dust and debris and the floor is strewn with discarded safety deposit boxes and numerous power tools, including an angle grinder, concrete drills and crowbars."
Police said the thieves bored holes into the reinforced concrete vault using an industrial drill called a Hilti DD350 — which retails for more than $5,000.
Johnson said the thieves did not have to force entry to get inside the building housing the vault. "How they got in will hopefully be a matter we learn in due course," he added when questioned further.
The complex operation happened over the weekend in Hatton Garden, home to some 300 diamond, gold and gem dealers and more than 50 stores. The thieves took more than 70 safety deposit boxes at Hatton Garden Safety Deposit Ltd.
Officials have not put an official value on the stolen items, but estimates in the U.K. press have put the total at around £200 million ($300 million), which would be far larger than any previous heist in the country.
Asked how many people in Britain would be capable of carrying out such a heist, Johnson said: "I imagine the pool of people would be quite small."
Officers are now undergoing a "painstaking" forensic examination of the scene and analyzing surveillance fim, he said.
No arrests have been made.