Hatton Garden raider ‘Basil the Ghost’ should pay back £6million from £13.6million deposit box heist, court hears
- Hatton Garden raider ‘Basil the Ghost’ has been asked to pay £6million back
- Michael Seed, 59, should face confiscation order ‘available in hidden assets’
- Alarm specialist was jailed for 10 years in March 2019 in connection with heist
Michael Seed was jailed for 10 years in March 2019 after becoming the 10th person to be convicted in connection with the 2015 Easter Bank Holiday weekend heist
Hatton Garden raider ‘Basil the Ghost’ has been asked to pay back nearly £6million from the £13.6million deposit box heist, a court has been told.
Michael Seed should face a confiscation order of £5.9million, which prosecutors say is available in hidden assets and non-returnable items from the raid, a proceeds of crime hearing at London’s Woolwich Crown Court was told.
The 59-year-old alarm specialist was jailed for 10 years in March 2019 after becoming the 10th person to be convicted in connection with the 2015 Easter Bank Holiday weekend heist.
Seed is believed to have let himself into the building in London’s diamond district using a set of keys, before defeating the security system.
He was one of two men who climbed into the vault to loot 73 safe deposit boxes after the gang of veteran criminals drilled through a thick concrete wall.
Seed evaded capture for three years before police raided his flat in Islington, north London – around two miles from Hatton Garden – in March 2018.
He denied any involvement in the heist, but was found guilty of conspiring to burgle, handle stolen goods and convert or transfer criminal property.
Seed was seen with fellow Hatton Garden member John ‘Kenny’ Collins before other members of the gang were arrested. It took a long-running surveillance operation to establish he was the missing member of the gang
A long-running police investigation found Seed was the mystery gang member called ‘Basil’
Hatton Garden heist: ‘one of the biggest safety deposit centre heists in British criminal history’
The raid at the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company in London’s diamond district is believed to be the largest burglary in British legal history.
The official value of the stolen goods was estimated at £13.7million worth of jewellery, precious gems and cash – but sources say that the unclear nature of what was taken means the true value could be closer to double that.
Those behind the heist often met on a Friday night in The Castle pub in Islington, north London, to discuss their plot, as well as in a nearby cafe.
Of the property stolen in the heist, only around £4.5million, roughly one-third, has since been recovered.
In secret police recordings, the Hatton Garden gang spoke of Seed having ‘300 on the floor’ – a reference to at least £300,000 worth of gold – ’80 to 90 grand’ in cash and enough ‘foreign money’ to last him for 10 years.
Speaking outside court in 2015, Detective Chief Inspector Mark Bedford said: ‘The conviction of Michael Seed brings to a close one of the longest investigations in the Flying Squad’s history.
‘It was a complex and meticulous inquiry into the burglary at the heart of London’s diamond district.
‘These men were career criminals who carried out one of the biggest safety deposit centre heists in British criminal history without a moment’s thought for any of the victims.
‘For many of the victims these safety deposit boxes contained their life savings and these were cruelly snatched from them by Michael Seed and the previously convicted co-defendants in this matter.’
Judge Christopher Kinch QC, during the March 2019 sentencing, told Seed: ‘Your role was a central one. You were at the heart of the core activities that had to be carried out. You were not just there to fetch and carry.
‘In my judgment this must rank among the worst offences of its type.’
Prosecutor Philip Evans QC told the confiscation hearing that the court has to decide if Seed had a criminal lifestyle, what the benefit was and whether he gained from it.
Mr Evans said: ‘There is simply no supporting evidence of the defendant’s assertion that he was running a jewellery business.’
He said Seed has not declared tax on any earnings, or ‘produced to date a single’ invoice, business receipt, bank transfer or name of a customer or anything that backs up his claim he was running a jewellery business.
Richard Sutton QC, defending, said Seed had been living a ‘fairly modest lifestyle’ which could have been funded by small business.
Seed’s lack of paperwork including tax payments is something that would lead to a financial penalty and not a prosecution, the court heard.
During his trial, Seed told jurors he was not the man nicknamed Basil by the rest of the gang. He was found guilty of conspiracy to burgle Hatton Garden Safe Deposit and conspiracy to handle the proceeds after £143,000 of gold ingots, gems and jewellery was found in his bedroom.
Of the £13.6million of property stolen in the heist, only around £4.5million – roughly a third – has been recovered by police.
Seed’s fellow Hatton Garden ringleaders Brian Reader, 80, John ‘Kenny’ Collins, 78, Daniel Jones, 64, and Terry Perkins, who died in prison last year aged 69, were all jailed in 2016.
Detectives believe the gang could have been operating undetected for decades before they were caught, but cannot link them to any other crimes.
Seed travelled abroad three times after he was first photographed meeting Collins by a surveillance team in the weeks after the Hatton Garden burglary, while he was unknown to police.
The prosecution at his trial suggested Seed, who studied electronics and physics at Nottingham University, may have taken stolen cash to Portugal, where Perkins had a holiday flat on the Algarve.
The infamous raid – said to be the largest burglary in British history – involved the gang drilling through the concrete wall of the vault beneath London’s diamond district
During a raid on his home in Islington, North London, gold was found in his desk and wardrobe
Gold was found at Seed’s home, along with security system boxes he’d been playing with
Seed was identified by the Flying Squad at the end of November 2015 and further surveillance footage captured him walking around Canary Wharf in April 2016.
But detectives waited until March 2018 to strike, catching Seed red-handed with more than 1,000 items stolen in the Hatton Garden heist.
He is believed to have been melting down gold and breaking up jewellery on his bedroom workbench bit by bit as it was brought in from a bigger stash.
Seed claimed he could have been on a family holiday in Cornwall or visiting his elderly mother in Cambridge at the time of the Hatton Garden raid.
‘Basil’ was snared by his unusual ‘Charlie Chaplin’ walk caused by a motorbike crash
An expert chiropodist also concluded that footage of Basil showed he had a particular habitual gait – an abnormality in his right leg.
Dr Gordon Burrow said Seed walked a bit like Charlie Chaplin – he had adduction of 19 degrees in both feet which means they turn outward at a wider angle than normal.
In 1994 Seed had metal pins inserted in his femur after a motorcycle accident left his right leg shattered.
An expert chiropodist analysed Seed’s way of walking in CCTV footage of the raid
The chiropodist explained meant his right hip over compensated and he lifted his legs higher rotating them slightly while he walked.
CCTV recovered from outside of Hatton Garden showed a man using a black binbag to cover his face from cameras.
Comparing the recordings to film of Seed walking around Canary Wharf, Dr Burrow felt it was likely the two sets of footage showed the same person.
Dr Burrow said the man in the Hatton Garden footage had feet which were slightly abducted’ [meaning they stick out slightly].
He told jurors an extreme example of foot abduction would result in a walk that resembles that of Charlie Chaplin.
The four-year road to catch ‘Basil’: How police allowed suspect to twice travel abroad before arrest
January 16, 2015: The Hatton Garden ringleaders assemble in The Castle pub, in Islington, to plan the raid.
April 2 to 5, 2015: The gang burglar the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company.
April 24, 2015: Michael Seed – then unknown to police – is pictured meeting Hatton Garden ringleader John ‘Kenny’ Collins in Shoreditch Park, Islington.
May 2, 2015: Surveillance again captures Collins meeting with Seed – still unknown to police – in the park before they separate and meet up again in nearby Eagle Wharf Road.
Seed’s meetings with Collins sparked a two and a half year probe which led to him being arrested at his home in possession of the stolen jewellery
May 19, 2015: Police arrest nine suspects in connection with the burglary. Seed remains at large.
September 4, 2015: Heist ringleaders Brian Reader, Terry Perkins, Daniel Jones and Collins plead guilty to conspiring to commit burglary at Woolwich Crown Court.
November 29, 2015: Police work out the man who talked to Collins was Seed. Surveillance officers observe him near his flat in Islington, north London.
January 14, 2016: Carl Wood and William Lincoln are found guilty of conspiracy to burgle.
March 9, 2016: Perkins, Jones, Collins and Lincoln are jailed for seven years; Wood gets a six-year jail term. Reader is sentenced later to six years and three months imprisonment.
April 28, 2016: Police surveillance officers use CCTV cameras to watch Seed walking around Canary Wharf.
July 2016: Seed travels to Portugal, unchallenged by police, who continue to watch him.
June 2017: Seed flies to Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain, again unchallenged by police.
February 4, 2018: Perkins dies in his cell at Belmarsh prison.
March 27, 2018: Michael Seed is arrested after police raid his flat in Islington, north London.
February 4, 2019: Seed goes on trial at Woolwich Crown Court.
March 15, 2019: The jury finds Seed guilty of his role in Hatton Garden. He is cleared over Chatila.
How mystery man ‘Basil the Ghost’ turned out to be a reclusive electronics whizz who fellow gang members said ‘baffled them with b******t’
A court sketch of Seed, who was convicted nearly four years after the raid
The ‘one who got away’, the mysterious ‘Basil’ from the Hatton Garden gang has been revealed to be a loner electronics boffin who sat on his stolen fortune rather than cash it in.
Michael Seed was vital to the success of the heist as he expertly disabled the alarms at the Hatton Garden vault centre over the Easter weekend in 2015.
Details of his past reveal that Seed, the son of a Cambridge biophysicist, had a very different background to the career criminals he helped carry out the raid.
He was born in 1960 and he did well at school, passing his A levels and went to Nottingham University where he studied physics and electronics at Nottingham University.
But he later drifted into small time drug dealing, landing himself a three year jail sentence in 1984, for supplying a friend with ten LSD pills and a small amount of cannabis.
After he was freed from prison, Seed lived in a hostel for a while before moving into his council flat in Islington, in 1986. He originally paid £13 a week in rent but now pays £105.
Despite having piles of stolen jewellery, Seed continued to live in a council flat in this block
Police raided the modest property after a three-year probe to find out who ‘Basil’ was
Seed told jurors: ‘I was unemployed for a while and then I started fixing TVs and videos – just fixing problems if anyone had a problem with a computer. I have always been good with computers.
‘Before the PC came out you had to go and build your own computer. I have written a few programmes. I started writing software when I was at university.
‘I did not get into jewellery until about the mid-90s. It is purely a thing for making money I have never had much interest in it or liking for it.’
He spent most of his adult life selling jewellery in the ‘black’ economy but also tinkered with electronic gadgetry including mobile phone signal blockers.
Seed claimed he met fellow Hatton Garden gang members Reader, Kenny Collins and Jones while working in Hatton Garden.
Covert recordings showed other members of the gang didn’t understand Seed’s technology, with Danny Jones overheard saying: ‘He can baffle me with b******t.’
His frugal lifestyle was the subject of mockery by fellow gang members who said his portion of the takings would see him through for the rest of his life because he lived in the cheapest ‘gaffs’.
Inside, officers found a mess of old electrical equipment and jewellery in a wardrobe
Flying Squad officers uncovered electrical equipment from the electronics geek’s flat
A photograph of his balcony showed a clutter of discarded objects amongst which was a buzzer with a speaker attached he had developed to frighten pigeons away.
Seed accepted he was a hoarder and led a chaotic life which involved weekly bouts of heavy drinking.
He said he could have acquired a BT workman’s jacket – which prosecutors claimed was used to gain access to the sites before the raids from a drinking companion who left it at his flat.
Seed’s biophysicist father John taught himself to degree level before taking a PhD at Christ Church, Cambridge but little else emerged about his family during the trial.
He has a brother and sister who live in Cambridge he is said to have strong ties with.
Seed likes to holiday, staying in a quiet village in Portugal at least once a year, flying with budget airlines out of season when its cheaper and the weather is still good.
Eloquent and witty, he tried to charm the jury with his wit while maintaining he had nothing to do with the raids.
His barrister Richard Sutton, QC, even suggested Basil could be a foreign criminal with link to a £86m diamond vault heist in Antwerp in 2003.
But the jury found Seed and Basil are one of the same.
How ‘diamond wheezers’ gang of veteran crooks carried off their record-breaking heist which inspired blockbuster movie starring Michael Caine
The Hatton Garden raid was the ‘swansong’ job of a gang of ageing crooks with dreams of retiring to the Costa del Sol.
The gang drew on experiences from two crimes – the £26million Brink’s Mat gold heist and the £6million Security Express cash robbery.
The gang planned the raid for the long Easter Bank Holiday weekend when they believed they would be free to work uninterrupted after security guards locked up on Thursday night.
Reader travelled to the site by bus using someone else’s Freedom Pass, while Collins transported the rest of the gang, dressed as workmen in high-visibility vests, in a battered white Transit van.
Seed, who had sourced a key to the building’s heavy double wooden doors, let himself in.
He then let his accomplices in through the fire escape where they brought in tools and equipment in wheelie bins along with large metal joists, while Collins acted as lookout from over he road at 25 Hatton Garden.
They then dropped into the basement, where one of the men forced open the metal shutter before ‘Basil’ dealt with the alarms.
The industrial drill used in the break-in
Although they had breached the wall on the first night, they were faced with another problem – the back of the metal cabinet housing the safe deposit boxes, which was bolted to the ceiling and floor.
Almost ten hours after entering the building, with no success, the gang were forced to call time on their efforts and left for the night.
The failure proved too much for Reader and he quit to the disgust of Perkins, who would later call him ‘an old ponce’ and said: ’12 years I’ve been with him, three four bits of work, f***ed every one of them.’
The gang arrived back at 88-90 Hatton Garden at 10pm the following night and Seed let Jones and Perkins in and the pair enthusiastically got to work battering the metal cabinet to the floor using the recently purchased pump.
When they finally knocked the cabinet down, Basil and Jones squeezed through the hole and jemmied open as many of the safe deposit boxes as they could.
When they emerged from the fire escape at 5.44am they had ransacked 73 of the 999 safe deposit boxes, 44 of which were being used by 40 tenants.
Mysteriously, the burglars left a cassette tape found in one of the boxes of ‘someone confessing to something’ for the authorities to find.
They then made off in their white Transit van, now sitting low on its suspension, with just short of millions in of stolen gold, gems, jewellery and cash hidden in two wheelie bins.
But the main players were caught out as they boasted of their exploits during a drinking session at the Castle pub in Islington and they were jailed in March 2016.
Brian Reader was given six years while Collins, Terry Perkins, 69, Daniel Jones, 60, and William Lincoln, 63, all got seven years for conspiracy to commit burglary.
They were later ordered to repay £27.5million between them or have their sentences increased.
A week later Perkins died in jail while awaiting trial for his role in another raid.
The raid inspired the film ‘King of Thieves’, which premiered on September 14, 2018, and starred Michael Caine and Ray Winstone.
Jim Broadbent, Ray Winstone and Charlie Cox in the film King of Thieves, based on the heist
Career criminal known as ‘The Guv’nor’ was jailed over £26million Brink’s Mat heist and went to Hatton Garden on his pensioner’s bus pass
‘Career criminal’ Brian Reader was known as ‘the Guv’nor’ and was a partner in crime of notorious gangland figure Kenneth Noye – despite the fact the pair were like ‘chalk and cheese’.
Aged 76, Reader is the oldest of the gang and he even travelled to the robbery on a bus using a pensioner’s ‘Freedom Pass’.
One police officer even described him as ‘the last of the gentlemen thieves.’
The second-hand car dealer, from Dartford, was jailed for his part in the infamous Brink’s Mat robbery in 1983.
The notorious heist involved armed robbers stealing £26million in gold bullion from Brink’s Mat, near London’s Heathrow Airport.
Reader was jailed at the Old Bailey in 1986 for conspiracy to handle stolen goods after plotting to with fellow crook Kenneth Noye to convert the gold.
Noye was an expert in converting criminal property and even mixed some of the gold with copper coins to lessen its purity and disguise it. He then recruited Reader to help him sell the gold.
Reader was also present at Noye’s house on the night an undercover policeman, Detective Constable John Fordham, who had been monitoring Noye, was stabbed 11 times.
After Fordham’s death, his colleagues discovered 11 gold bars wrapped in red-and-white cloth hidden in a shallow gully beside the garage wall.
Noye and Reader were found not guilty of the murder of DC Fordham but five months later both were jailed in 1986 for handling the stolen bullion.
Reader was jailed for eight years and Noye 14 for their roles in handling the Brink’s Mat gold – much of which has never been found.
A police source has said they believe Reader had nothing to do with the killing.
The source said: ‘Him and Noye were like chalk and cheese. Reader is the last of the gentleman thieves.
‘He was a likeable bloke, not arrogant or aggressive like many villains. He didn’t have the swagger or the bravado of people like Noye.’
Police linked reader to the Hatton Garden robbery after he was found to be communicating with other suspects after the raid.
When detectives moved in on his detached property in Dartford in May last year, they seized a book on the diamond underworld, diamond testers, a diamond gauge and diamond magazines.
They also found a distinctive scarf which could be seen on CCTV. Police recognised his stripy socks and brown shoes.
After travelling to the first night of the raid on the bus, Reader was involved as the gang drilled through the wall of the basement vault.
However, when the gang failed to dislodge a cabinet of safety deposit boxes and decided to come back later to complete the job, Reader dropped out and did not return.
Career criminal took part in the 1985 Security Express Heist and died in prison after Hatton Garden
Terry Perkins celebrated his 67th birthday over the weekend of the raid.
He was one of those involved from start to finish and entered the safety deposit premises on both nights of the heist.
He did not go through the drilled holes into the vault and is thought to have stayed outside being handed the stolen goods.
He was later recorded by police saying he wished he’d taken a photo during the raid.
Police have described him as a career criminal and he was also involved in the well-known Security Express heist in east London in 1985.
The raid, which like the Hatton Garden raid, also took place, over the bank holiday Easter weekend, was masterminded by John Knight, the brother the former husband of actress Barbara Windsor.
In that raid, the gang stole £6million from the vaults of Securicor. Perkins was jailed for 22 years in 1985 for his role in the break-in.
After coming out of prison, he set himself up as a property and, like a number of other members of the Hatton Garden gang, lived in Enfield.
During a technical hitch at a preliminary court hearing, he called out: ‘Could you ask the judge and yourselves to come down so we can have tea together?’
Perkins died in prison on 5 February 2018 at the age of 69 while watching rugby on television.
He was due to stand trial for the Chatila heist while serving seven years for the Hatton Garden raid.
‘Walter Mitty’ eccentric wore his mother’s dressing gown and a fez on and was obsessed with the Army
Daniel Jones was described as an ‘eccentric Walter Mitty’ character during the trial when one of the accused men told of his strange habits.
The 58-year-old is one of the two men who actually got through the small hole the gang drilled into the vault and went through safety deposit boxes before handing out the loot.
He was caught on CCTV wearing an eccentric outfit during the raid, complete with striped trousers, a hi-viz waistcoat, red trainers and a navy baseball cap.
Police found a box of dust masks, the book ‘Forensics for Dummies’, a drill, balaclavas and a walkie-talkie at his house.
Ahead of the trial, he was involved in a bizarre episode where he wrote to Sky News correspondent Martin Brunt and claimed he was trying to show police where he had buried his share of the cash and jewels stolen during the raid.
He was finally allowed out of his cell at Belmarsh, but showed officers only a fraction of what was buried at the cemetery.
He led police a grave stone where he had hidden a bag of stolen gold, jewellery and gemstones but he did not tell them about another spot in the same cemetery where two more bags were stashed under the memorial stone to his children’s grandfather.
The trial heard Jones, of Enfield, was ‘eccentric to extremes’ and would speak to his white-haired terrier dog, Rocket, as if it were human.
He was also obsessed with the army and keeping fit – often going to bed in a sleeping bag on his bedroom floor and urinating into a bottle, an associate told the jury.
Accused Carl Wood told the court: ‘Danny is a very sensitive guy, a very funny man. Eccentric to extremes, that everyone who knew Danny would say he was mad. He would go to bed in his mother’s dressing gown with a fez on.’
Jones has a lengthy criminal record dating back to 1975, with convictions for robbery, handling stolen goods and and burglary.
‘Wombat-thick’ driver ‘lost the plot’ after the huge raid
John ‘Kenny’ Collins, 75, was part of the Islington side of the gang and has a long string of convictions for crimes including robbery, handling stolen goods and fraud dating back to 1961.
He was the driver for the gang waited in vehicles outside the safety deposit company on both nights of the Hatton Garden raid and acted as a lookout. It was his link to the white Mercedes which the first step in police tracking down the raiders.
He also drove the white Ford Transit van which was used in the heist.
The court heard he was described as ‘wombat-thick’ by his accomplices and prosecutors said he ‘lost the plot’ in the weeks after the raid.
Collins lives with William Lincoln’s sister. He is said to have used the two men and Hugh Doyle, his close friend, as he attempted to hide his share of the loot.
A large amount of cash, watches, coins, jewellery and a money counter were found at his home in Islington – which is just five minutes from Hatton Garden.
Neighbours were shocked by his involvement, describing his as a ‘nice geezer’ who loved walking his dog.
During the raid, he was caught on CCTV wearing a smart green quilted cap and carrying a briefcase as he took up a look-out post in the building opposite.
‘Billy The Fish’ market trader helped move on the stolen goods
William ‘Billy’ Lincoln, 60, was recruited by ringleader John ‘Kenny’ Collins as a trusted family member to control a large part of the loot following the heist.
Lincoln’s aunt Milly Garrett lived with Collins as his common law wife in Islington.
He has a string of convictions for attempted burglary, burglary and attempted theft between 1975 and 1985, but his most recent conviction was for battery in 2013.
The proud Eastender attacked a gang of youths with a chair because they were causing trouble on his street in Bethnal Green.
The married father-of-two was a well known character at the famous Billingsgate fish market where he would buy haddock, kippers, eels and salmon to sell on to friends and family members.
He would relax at the Georgian Porchester Spa, in Westminster, a Turkish baths specialising in ‘Schmeissing’ (a Yiddish term for the treatment where men are beaten with a large soapy brush).
Amused jurors were told how Lincoln was known as ‘Billy the fish’ at the baths because he used to arrive with salmon to sell to his fellow bathers.
The levity in court continued when his pal, James Creighton, known as ‘Jimmy two baths’ because of his habit of Schmeissing twice, was called to back up Lincoln’s story that he was dealing fish as the Hatton Garden burglars were completing their first night’s work.
But with a double hip replacement and a bladder problem, which left him incontinent, Lincoln, who lives off disability benefits, was not part of the team put together to go into the building.
Lincoln was instrumental in organising the exchange of the bags of loot and was arrested after police boxed in his black Audi A3 before smashing the window and dragging him out of the car.
Heavily-indebted Crohn’s sufferer pulled out of Hatton Garden heist
Carl Wood, 58, was a trusted associate of the ringleaders, recruited as an ‘extra pair of hands’ to pull off the heist.
Wood grew up in Hackney, has been married to wife Paula for 19 years and has two adult daughters who have children of their own.
He was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in his early 20s, an inflammatory bowel disease which he claimed often left him bed-ridden and in agony.
In conversations recorded by police bugs, Terry Perkins suggests Wood was vouched for by his old friend Billy Hickson, who stood trial alongside Perkins over the £6million Security Express heist.
Wood was around £20,000 in debt, but in January 2015 attended the Adventure Travel Show, at the Kensington Olympia, featuring ‘once-in-a-lifetime travel experiences’ in apparent anticipation of his future wealth.
He did not attend the planning meetings, but was regularly updated by his friend of 30 years, Daniel Jones.
The pair would regularly meet for walks followed by sandwiches and coffee at their local gardening centre.
Dressed in dark clothing, hi-visibility waistcoat and navy baseball cap and wearing a white surgeon’s style mask dark gloves and glasses, Wood was one of the men who entered 88-90 Hatton Garden on the first night of the raid.
In 1993 he stood trial with two police officers, who had teamed up with crook Robert Kean in a bid to recover £600,000 owed to the villain by an underworld financier.
They were caught by police corruption busters who secretly filmed them at the hotel as Wood was heard bragging how he would beat the debtor with an iron bar after claiming he owed him £80,000.
He was jailed for four years for his role in the plot. Morgan was branded ‘despicable’ as he was jailed for seven years, Costello was jailed for 30 months and Kean was given a seven-year sentence.
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