Images of Michael Seed (left) with alleged accomplice John Collins were shown to the court
The Hatton Garden suspect believed to be infamous gang member ‘Basil’ appeared in court today as prosecutors said police had finally unmasked him.
Michael Seed, 58, is on trial for his alleged involvement in the Hatton Garden burglary, which shook London’s diamond district over the 2015 Easter weekend.
Seed, of Islington, north London, is accused of being ‘Basil’ – the only member of the gang who has never been caught.
Experts said in court today Seed has the same ‘walk’ as Basil, and that when carrying out surveillance they saw him with John Collins before he was sentenced to seven years in prison for his role in the crime.
Mr Seed also had 1,015 items from the raid in his bedroom, which would have sold for £143,000 at auction, Woolwich Crown Court heard today.
The prosecution says it was Seed who was captured on camera wearing a wig and a hat as he expertly disable alarms at the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd complex that evening.
The burglars succeeded in stealing millions in precious jewels and metals because the security system mistakenly informed the owners the police were on scene – when they did not arrive until after they had gone.
In court Metropolitan Police surveillance footage was shown as Mr Seed, (left) 58, is accused of two charges of conspiracy to commit burglary and one charge of conspiracy to convert or transfer criminal property in relation to the Hatton Garden heist in 2015
Michael Seed, 58, was allegedly caught on CCTV (right) during the Hatton Garden burglary wearing a wig and a hat as he held the door open for his elderly fellow gang members. Pictured left the inside of the vault at the Hatton Garden Safe Deposit company
Nine people have so far been convicted of involvement in the raid.
Woolwich Crown Court heard five of the six men who were in the basement at Hatton Garden on the night of the theft – Brian Reader, 79, John Collins, 78, Daniel Jones, 61, Carl Wood, 61, and Terry Perkins, who died last year at the age of 69 – have been convicted of conspiring to carry it out.
Prosecutor Philip Evans QC told the jury the sixth man, known as Basil, was not arrested at the same time and remained at large.
He said: ‘The prosecution case is that ‘Basil’ was a nickname and the defendant, Michael Seed, is that man. The prosecution say Seed was involved in the burglary of Hatton Garden and the subsequent laundering of the proceeds.’
Seed is also accused of taking part in a ‘strikingly similar’ £1million raid on Amal Clooney’s wedding jewellers, Chatila, in London’s Mayfair during the August Bank Holiday weekend of 2010.
Gold jewellery and precious and semi-precious stones were found in Michael Seed’s home, the court was shown
Police took images of Michael Seed’s bedroom which showed electronic equipment gathered
Mr Evans, QC, told Woolwich Crown Court: ‘A total of 1015 items of jewellery, gold, watches, and bundles precious or semi-precious stones were recovered at the property, all of it in Mr Seed’s bedroom with the exception of a deconstructed eternity ring.
‘There were 43 victims of the Hatton Garden burglary. The police requested that they attend the police station in order to view the items seized and identify whether or not the items/bundles recovered belonged to them.
‘Only 30 victims responded and 22 attended the police station.
‘789 of those items were positively identified by owners of safety deposit boxes as having been stolen from their boxes during the Hatton Garden burglary.
‘A further 144 of those items were identified by owners of safety deposit boxes as being consistent with items that had been stolen from their boxes during the Hatton Garden burglary.
‘Therefore, a total of 92 per cent of the items were, or potentially were, items stolen from safety deposit boxes during the Hatton Garden Burglary. 82 items remain unidentified.
‘The items have been valued at £143,129,74 by Wilsons Auctioneers. This is the price the bundles would be expected to achieve at auction.
Michael Seed, believed to be Basil (court sketch pictured) is on trial for his alleged involvement in the Hatton Garden burglary, which became the biggest jewellery heist ever to be pulled off when it happened over the Easter weekend in 2015
‘The wholesale value of the items has not been calculated, but it would be less.
‘The majority of the jewellery was sealed in self-seal bags but also in Tupperware boxes, found both on the work bench and also in a wardrobe.
‘Some jewellery was still intact, and a fair quantity displayed price tags and references.
‘There was also some jewellery found in the wardrobe that appears to have been deconstructed ready for smelting the metal.
A total of 835 Euros in cash was found in suit jacket pocket in the bedroom wardrobe, along with 35 Euros found along with money bands in a box on a shelf.
‘The money bands are of the type that are used to hold bundles of denominations together.
‘There were a number of tools such as pliers, precision drills, tweezers, soldering irons, and a smelting pot found capable of being used to deconstruct jewellery in order to separate precious stones from yellow and silver metals.
Chatila made the jewellery for Amal Clooney’s wedding to her film star husband George
‘Inside the front room was an amount of shelving containing large number of books about electronics and surveillance.
‘That included in-depth and technical information in the area of electronics and radio frequencies as well as several manuals on anti-surveillance and anti-intrusive audio techniques.
‘There were also products and devices found that do not appear to have been purchased in their current form, but rather have been built or adapted to meet specific requirements.
‘There were devices that can covertly monitor movements and sounds by way of audio and vibration recordings. These products were found both in the front room and the bedroom.
‘The Crown allege that the electronic devices found demonstrate that Mr Seed’s role during the Hatton Garden burglary was a crucial one: the disabling of the security system, as was mentioned by the other conspirators in the covert recordings.
‘Combined with the manner in which the items were divided up, this further points towards Seed’s leading role in the conspiracy.
‘Clothing was found in the bedroom for which Mr Seed would have no legitimate use but could be used to gain illegitimate access to premises, for example for reconnaissance purposes: a ‘BT’ Hi-Vis jacket, a ‘Royal Mail’ Hi-Viz jacket and a ‘BT Open Reach’ Blue T-Shirt.
‘In the front room there are a large number of very high-level knowledge-based books on various electronic devices.
‘In addition, there are a number of books in relation to anti-surveillance techniques including one that instructs the reader on how to defeat audio devices.’
The burglars spent the evening of April 2 2015 drilling three holes (pictured) so they could get into the vault at the Hatton Garden jewellery shop, the jury heard
Jurors also heard a glove discovered at the scene of the Chatila burglary links Seed to the raid.
Me Evans said: ‘Following Mr Seed’s arrest on 27 March 2018 in respect of the offence at Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd, his DNA was compared to the samples retained from the offence at Chatila.
‘You’ll remember there was a glove found in the electrical alarm cupboard at Chatila.
‘That glove had a mixture of DNA from at least four people inside it and the majority profile was a partial match for Danny Jones, 61 (already convicted for his part in the raid).
‘The chances of it coming from someone other than Jones was one in a billion and you’ll remember that Jones pleaded guilty to taking part in this burglary.
‘Among the DNA remaining it was discovered that Mr Seed’s DNA profile was almost completely represented within it as well.
‘The re-testing of the glove in 2018 used a more advanced method DNA LiRa. That method tested two propositions against each other: The DNA came from Jones, Seed, and two others; The DNA came from Jones and three other people all of whom were unrelated to Seed.
‘It was concluded that it was 6,600 times more likely that the first proposition was true – namely that the DNA inside the glove was obtained from Jones, Seed and two other people.
‘The similarities between the burglary at Chatila and the burglary at Hatton Garden Safe Deposit are striking and compelling.
‘The Crown says that those similarities are explained not by coincidence but because the same people were involved in both.’
Jurors were shown CCTV of the man alleged to be Seed entering the premises at 9.20pm that evening.
The prosecution claims that once inside the gang disabled the lift and lowered themselves down the shaft to the basement.
The lock on the door was then snapped off leaving a hole to get in and out of the vault.
They damaged the alarm by cutting the telephone wires and the GPS aerial was deactivated.
But the damaged alarm sent a message to security when the outer gate of the vault was opened shortly after midnight, the court heard.
Mr Evans said: ‘A director of Hatton Garden Safety Deposit received a call from the monitoring company almost immediately.
‘He was told that the alarm was signalling and that the police were on scene.
‘The latter part of the message was wrong: the police did not come until later.
He is accused of being part of a gang which raided Hatton Garden Safe Deposit Ltd in 2015
‘The director arranged for one of the security guards to attend the scene and he decided to go himself as well.
‘At about 01:15 the security guard arrived at Hatton Garden. He inspected the exterior of the premises only.
‘He called the director, who was by then five minutes away, and he called him to say that the main door and the fire exit appeared secure.
‘He informed him, wrongly, that it was a false alarm, and both men returned home. The attempts to access the vault continued inside.
‘The men then spent the night cutting through the second sliding iron gate and then drilling three adjoining and circular holes in the thick wall to the vault.’
The prosecution claims Basil and Jones were the only ones who could have fitted into the vault.
He added: ‘It seems likely that Perkins – already jailed over the burglary – would have been unable to fit through the hole of that nature and so it would appear that Jones and ‘Basil’ were the ones who actually entered the vault itself.
‘Once inside the vault, the burglars jemmied open 73 of the 999 safe deposit boxes, which they proceeded to ransack.
‘No doubt, if they had had more time, and more people to assist them, they would have opened more, and stolen more.’
The prosecution then claimed expert evidence proves Seed is Basil from the way the man in the CCTV footage walks.
Seed, of Islington, north London, is also accused of taking part in a ‘strikingly similar’ £1million raid on Amal Clooney’s wedding jewellers, Chatila (pictured) in London’s Mayfair during the August Bank Holiday weekend of 2010
Mr Evans added: ‘The expert noted the right leg movement and the position of the foot and lower limb have a similar appearance at various stages of the gait cycle in both sets of footage, consistent over time and repeatable and reliable characteristics.
‘In other words, the different parts of the leg movements when the two individuals walk – ‘Basil’ in the Hatton Garden footage and Seed after Hatton Garden – are consistent.
‘It is the experts’ opinion that there is strong evidence to support the proposition that Seed is Basil.
‘Both sets of footage have also been reviewed by an expert Chiropodist/Podiatrist.
‘He concluded that the ‘Basil’ footage showed someone with a particular habitual gait – an abnormality in his right leg.’
According to a covert recording of fellow gang members Daniel Jones, 61, and 78-year-old John Collins, Basil was the only one who knew enough about alarms to disable them.
Jurors heard Jones tell Collins: ‘I don’t know enough to challenge him you know what I mean? Like say nah that ain’t right… He can baffle me with b*******.’
Mr Evans also said: ‘It appears that the burglars were highly forensically aware. No fingerprints or DNA traces were detectable on items left at the scene, or the walls and floor.
‘Furthermore, a milky-white fluid, later determined to be bleach, had been sprayed on surfaces, indicating that a significant degree of cleaning, designed to prevent any evidence being left behind, had taken place.’
After the break-in ‘a white-male’ was seen speaking to Collins in parks near to Seed’s home address who prosecutors claim is ‘Basil’.
Mr Evans went on to describe Seed’s alleged disguise: ‘He has got some sort of hat on and some sort of wig.’
Basil can be seen with his face covered, with white gloves on and headphones in his ears, according to the prosecutor.
The court heard the burglars used a Hilti DD350 drill they had brought with them to cut three holes.
Mr Evans continued: ‘They 25cm by 45cm breach in that wall.
Accused: Michael ‘Basil’ Seed, 58, of Islington, north London is on trial at Woolwich Crown Court
‘They would at this point have encountered the back of the heavy metal cabinet housing the safe deposit boxes which was fixed both to the floor and ceiling.
‘It appears that they had with them on that first night a Clarke pump and hose, which included a 10-ton hydraulic ram.
‘For some reason, the burglary was not completed that night. It seems, from what happened in the following days, that there had been a problem with the pump and hose.
‘What that problem was is not immediately clear, but it seems it did not do its job and stopped them from moving the metal cabinets, and ultimately stopped them getting through that hole, remember those metal cabinets were bolted to the floor and ceiling.’
Jurors were shown an exact model of the hole drilled into the vault at Hatton Garden which the raiders used to loot the safes inside.
Seed denies two counts of conspiracy to burgle and one count of conspiracy to conceal or disguise criminal property.
Earlier trials have seen the convictions of Danny Jones, 61, Terry Perkins, John Kenneth Collins, 78, ‘Kenny’, Carl Wood, 58, and Brian Reader, 79, in connection with the Hatton Garden job.
Perkins, 69, died in prison ahead of his trial for involvement in the Chatila raid and Jones admitted his role in the heist last year.
William Lincoln, 63, Hugh Doyle, 51, Terri Robinson, 37, and Bren Walters, 45, were also convicted for conspiring to conceal criminal property.
Charles Matthews, 55, was convicted of handling stolen goods from the Chatila burglary.
Seed’s trial continues.
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