Police hunt for thieves after botched Ritz robbery in Paris
PARIS (AP) — Paris authorities recovered all the jewels stolen from the Ritz Hotel in a dramatic heist, but were still searching for two thieves who got away, officials said Thursday.
Though ultimately unsuccessful, the robbery on Wednesday evening raised questions about security in one of the world’s most prestigious neighborhoods, the Place Vendome. Its well-guarded buildings include the Justice Ministry, high-end boutiques and the 19th-century Ritz.
Workers cleaned up shattered glass Thursday and started to repair damage from the robbery. Otherwise business appeared to be returning to normal at the Ritz, with no significant increase in security.
Three perpetrators “entered by the service entrance, smashed the jewelry stands, grabbed jewels that were clearly expensive with the help of axes,” said Jean-Michel Huguet of police union Alliance Police Nationale.
They seized watches from display cases holding wares from Rolex and Piaget, and then targeted the Alexandre Reza jewelry boutique inside the hotel.
The suspects inside threw bags of goods out of a window to at least two accomplices outside, according to a police official. The three inside were then blocked when they tried to flee through another door, and quickly arrested, the official said.
The accomplices outside fled, one on a motorcycle and another in a car. The motorcyclist dropped a bag with jewels and hatchets when his motorcycle hit a pedestrian during his escape. The pedestrian was slightly injured, said the official, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation.
Other jewels were found scattered amid the debris of the shattered display cases during overnight cleanup efforts, the official told The Associated Press.
The overall value of the jewels on display was estimated at about 4.5 million euros ($5.4 million).
An official close to the investigation said Thursday night that all the stolen jewels have been recovered, after authorities and jewelers carefully examined the contents of the bag and debris and found everything had been accounted for.
Another police official said some of the thieves apparently had guns. Two people inside the hotel hid from the thieves and alerted police, the official said.
Patrons at the hotel’s renowned Hemingway Bar described panic as the thieves entered the hushed environment of the Ritz, where rooms start at 1,000 euros ($1,200) a night.
Several high-end Paris jewelry stores have been targets of dramatic robberies in recent years, including Cartier, Harry Winston and Chopard. Kim Kardashian West said she lost millions of dollars’ worth of jewelry when she was robbed at gunpoint in a Paris apartment in October 2016.
The Ritz was an especially luxurious target. The hotel has housed such famous names as Ernest Hemingway and Coco Chanel. It was the last place Princess Diana stayed before her fatal car crash in a Paris tunnel, and hosts elite guests from around the world drawn to the refined neighborhood.
Jeffrey Schaeffer contributed to this report.