Woman who posed as French gem expert to swap £4.3m diamonds for pebbles guilty and facing jail
A woman whose sleight of hand played an integral role in a £4.2million diamond heist has been found guilty at Southwark Crown Court.
Lulu Lakatos, 60, from the Saint Brieuc region of France, was found guilty of conspiracy to steal on Wednesday, 28 July following the conclusion of her trial.
Sentencing is currently underway at the same court.
Lakatos (pictured above in different clothing during the heist) was part of international organised gang who targeted the Boodles store in New Bond Street, central London, and stole seven gems, replacing them with pebbles, during the theft on 10 March 2016.
Lakatos (above in police mugshot) was part of a gang who had been intrinsically planning the raid for some time, engaging with Boodles and posing as a wealthy Russian investor who was looking to purchase gems. In the weeks leading up to the raid, meetings had been held with Boodles and people purporting to work for the ‘investor’, culminating in an arrangement where a gemmologist named ‘Anna’ working on behalf of the investor would travel to London to inspect the gems – this role was to be played by Lakatos.
The court were told how Lakatos entered the country on the day before the raid and checked into a hotel in Cricklewood in the company of another woman.
At around 20:15hrs on 9 March 2016, Lakatos met with two men at a café near to her hotel. All three drove into central London where they scoped out the Boodles store from the street, before Lakatos was dropped back in Cricklewood.
The following day Lakatos, now dressed to impersonate the gemmologist ‘Anna’, arrived for the pre-arranged meeting at Boodles. Outside the Boodles store, four other members of the gang were present, observing events. These were the two men Lakatos had met the previous evening, and two women who have yet to be identified.
Using the guise that she did not speak English very well, Lakatos and staff at Boodles communicated in French – Lakatos would subsequently use this language barrier as part of the execution of the theft.
After being shown into a secure area in the presence of Boodles own gemmologist, the seven diamonds were produced for Lakatos to examine; each were then individually placed in a locked bag and were to be stored with Boodles until confirmation of the payment had been received.
Following Lakatos’s inspection, she placed the bag containing the diamonds in her own handbag.
The Boodle’s gemmologist immediately challenged her, but Lakatos used the apparent language barrier to cause a delay, before appearing to produce the same locked bag containing the diamonds from her handbag.
However, in the seconds that Lakatos had engineered, she had switched the padlocked bag with a duplicate one already stored within her handbag containing seven pebbles of the same weight.
The gemmologist raised concerns, and a visual check of the bag was carried out but the padlocked bag was not discovered.
Lakatos left the shop with the staff unaware of what had taken place in front of their own eyes. As she walked down the street she was followed by the two women; they caught up with her and CCTV footage showed Lakatos transferring the bag to one of the women as they continued to walk.
Further back, the two men followed at a distance.
All the gang members then went their separate ways. Lakatos took a taxi to a pub near Victoria Station where she changed her clothing in a pub toilet before catching a Eurostar train meaning she had been in and out of the country, having committed the theft, within 24 hours and within just three hours of committing the offence.
The following day, Boodles – who still held concerns over the way ‘Anna’ the gemmologist had acted – had the locked bag in their possession x-rayed. While the items inside appeared to be the same size as the diamonds, they did not appear quite right. The bag was opened and the pebbles were discovered.
An investigation was launched, led by the Met’s Flying Squad. They painstakingly began to piece together the evidence, analysing hours of CCTV footage and interrogating the forensic trail left behind by the gang through their contact with Boodles.
Lakatos was identified and arrested in France and extradited back to the UK on 3 December 2020.
Acting Detective Sergeant William Man of the Flying Squad said:
“This was an audacious theft, carried out in plain view of experienced and professional staff at a renowned jewellers. The meticulous planning and execution of this theft reveals to me that those involved were highly skilled criminals.
“However, due to the tenacious police work of the Flying Squad, involving painstaking analysis of a vast amount of evidence, we have managed to identify Lakatos and bring her to justice.
"While she played a key role in this theft, it is clear she did not work alone and enquiries remain ongoing to identify all those involved.”
The two men involved in this theft were identified convicted of conspiracy to steal. An investigation is ongoing for the other two women seen to be involved in the exchange with Lakatos following the theft.
A third woman – who accompanied Lakatos into the UK – was found not guilty of conspiracy to steal following a trial.