A woman is on trial for allegedly stealing diamonds worth £4.2 million from a luxury jewellery shop in Central London.
Lulu Lakatos, 60, has been accused of posing as a gemologist—an expert in gemstones—to discreetly swap the precious stones for pebbles in what is believed to be an elaborate heist.
At the trial against Lakatos on Tuesday, Southwark Crown Court heard that the 60-year-old Romanian was sent to the Boodles store on New Bond Street in central London under the alias 'Anna' to inspect the diamonds by a group posing as wealthy Russian investors.
Pebbles for diamonds
Lakatos was escorted to the jewellers’ basement meeting room on March 10, 2016 by Nicholas Wainwright, Boodles chairman, and Emma Barton, the firm’s own gemologist.
Wainwright told the court that he thought the defendant:
Looked strange... She was overweight, she was dressed most extraordinarily, she was wearing the sort of thing a Russian dancer would wear. She had enormous boobs and you could see her cleavage, it was most unattractive.
Wainwright said inside the meeting room, Lakatos purported to examine and weigh the diamonds before individually wrapping them in pre-cut tissue paper and placing them inside opaque boxes.
The boxes were then placed in a zippable purse, which was padlocked shut, and Lakatos placed the purse inside her own handbag.
Recalling the incident to the court, Ms Barton said she told the defendant:
No, no, no, you can't do that, please take them out of your handbag now, I have to see them at all times. Four million pounds' worth of diamonds had been out of my sight.
Lakatos, who was born in Romania but lived in France, told Ms Barton not to worry before retrieving the locked purse from her handbag and placing it back on the table.
Philip Stott, prosecuting, told the jury:
But, unseen by Emma Barton, it seems what happened was it was swapped for an identical locked bag and that duplicate bag was placed back on the table.
As a precaution, Mr. Wainright asked the defendant if he could look into her handbag.
I thought: ‘Why on earth would she put them in her bag?’ I had a look in her bag for about three seconds but couldn't see anything.
The duplicate purse-like bag was then placed inside the shop's safe and the defendant walked out of the store at 12.05pm.
Sleight of hand
The court heard that when the money for the diamonds failed to arrive from the Russian investors, Boodles sent the padlocked bag to be X-rayed and inside each of the opaque boxes was a small pebble instead of a diamond. Mr. Scott told the court:
The diamonds had been stolen by the defendant by sleight of hand...The conspiracy in which she is alleged to have played an integral and central part was one of the highest possible sophistication, planning, risk, and reward
The gems included a 20-carat heart-shaped diamond valued at more than £2.2 million and a three-carat pear-shaped fancy pink diamond worth £1.1 million.