The Financial Times reports today that £4 million of gold and jewellery has just been recovered from the ruins of a Croydon pawnbrokers that was destroyed in the riots on August 8. Involving a secret police operation to foil conniving local crooks eager to get their hands on the booty, it is a story worthy of the plot of an Ealing comedy.
In rather florid prose for the Pink ‘Un, it says: “…the company found itself plotting against South London’s criminal underworld as it grappled to resolve the biggest single insurance claim to result from the London riots”.
In a top-secret operation amid 24/7 security and night-vision CCTV, the police had to deal with a crime scene amid a dangerous structure at what used to be Albermarle & Bond, while for four months thousands of unsuspecting commuters passed to and from West Croydon rail and bus stations nearby.
Most of the missing jewellery had been “popped” for cash, and with the pawnbrokers uncertain what state the items might be in if ever recovered, the company suspended interest on loans and offered compensation as it waited for the salvage operation to proceed.
According to the newspaper report, security guards have thwarted “several attempts to break into the remains of the shop” in the past two months since the rubble was removed from the site.
The FT says: “Salvage workers eventually reached the safes to find they had been badly burned, but crucially not cracked open. Before Christmas, roads surrounding the shop were closed early in the morning, and armed police officers arrived to watch over a giant crane as it hoisted the safes on to a waiting lorry.”
The paper reports David Millard, Albermarle & Bond’s regional manager, as saying: “Every crook and villain in London would have known the safes were being lifted, and what was inside them.”
It has taken two weeks at a bonded warehouse near Heathrow to crack open the five safes and reveal that nearly all of the 4,500 items inside remained intact.
“Most of the pieces were fine, apart from the smell of smoke,” one pawnbroker staff member said.
- Croydon misses out on Boris’s £32m Outer London awards (insidecroydon.com)
- Police turn their back on Croydon’s riot review panel (insidecroydon.com)
- Croydon, 21st century slavery and the sex trade (insidecroydon.com)
- Pawn again: The rebirth of the high-street credit merchants (independent.co.uk)