Jewellery shop burglars planned £300,000 heist from Stratford flat
PUBLISHED: 16:35 03 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:01 03 March 2020
Two burglars who drilled through walls to raid a jewellery shop under the cover of a nearby half marathon have been jailed for six years each over the £300,000 heist.
Florin-Cristin Neagu, 46, and Sorin Munteanu, 44, were found guilty of the "sophisticated and daring" raid at George Attenborough & Son Jewellers in Fleet Street, central London.
The pair and their associate, Nicolae Sisca, who had previously admitted burglary, carried out the burglary over the weekend of March 23 and 24 last year.
Jurors at Southwark Crown Court took just 32 minutes to convict Neagu and Munteanu of burglary on Tuesday, March 3 after prosecutor Philip Stott said there was "overwhelming" evidence of the pair's guilt. The judge branded their decision to go to trial as "absurd".
Handing down the sentences, Mr Recorder Jo Boothby said: "It was with considerable professionalism that you came to this country in January of last year.
"You came as a team, I have no doubt, having already decided that you were going to attack the premises of George Attenborough & Son.
"In February you bought a car and rented a flat in Stratford. In March you carried out reconnaissance visits to Fleet Street where you were planning your burglary. It was a burglary of very high value cargo, of gold and jewellery.
"You shielded the CCTV and spent two evenings, two nights smashing your way into the premises doing considerable damage.
"After that you hurriedly left the country and returned to Romania and presumably passed the jewellery onto someone in this country."
The court heard the men first attempted to tunnel into the basement of the luxury jewellers but accidentally drilled into a neighbouring William Hill betting shop.
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Jurors were shown footage of one of the men, said to be Sisca, crawling through the hole and looking around the betting shop before returning.
Mr Stott said the mistake was made despite extensive reconnaissance and planning.
They were also shown footage of Munteanu covering a camera with a white opaque substance.
The second day of the raid coincided with thousands of runners competing in the London Landmarks half marathon nearby, which they used to their advantage.
The group stole £298,987.21 worth of jewellery and also attempted to access the shop's safe containing items worth an estimated £400,000.
During the raid, Neagu stayed outside and kept watch for more than eight hours over the two days as Munteanu went inside to assist Sisca.
Neagu and Munteanu both fled the UK within 48 hours of the burglary, but were arrested in Romania and extradited back to the UK last year.
Felicia Davy, representing Neagu, said: "Clearly there was some preparation.
The fact that William Hill was first broken into indicates this was not as professional as my learned friend may suggest."
The jewellery has not been recovered.
Alexander Taylor-Camara, representing Munteanu, said: "There is still an ultimate loser no matter which way one looks at it because the jewellery remains unrecovered and there is a loss to that amount."
The two men will now face confiscation proceedings regarding the missing jewellery on July 24.