How Romanian thief, 60, almost got away with £4.2m diamond heist
28th July 2021

How Romanian thief, 60, almost got away with £4.2m Ocean’s Eleven-style diamond heist from London society jeweller Boodles using sleight of hand to swap them for PEBBLES as she is found guilty despite pointing finger of blame at her dead lookalike sister

  • Boodles was the subject of an extravagant heist in 2016 by a gang of thieves who nabbed seven diamonds
  • Rocks worth £4.2million were stolen on the morning of March 10 by a cunning ‘jewel inspector’ called Anna 
  • Lulu Lakatos insisted the buxom woman in a low cut top who swapped diamonds for rocks was sister Liliana
  • Both siblings, from Romania but living in France, had convictions for thefts before Liliana died in a car crash 
  • Boodles only realised diamonds were gone after gang had fled country via Channel Tunnel within three hours 

The buxom and ‘most unattractive’ Romanian thief convicted of the biggest jewellery shop heist in British history left the UK for France via the Channel Tunnel within three hours after dumping her glamourous granny disguise in a Wetherspoons toilet and then blamed a lookalike sister who had been killed in a car crash for nabbing £4.2million of diamonds.

Lulu Lakatos faces five-and-a-half years in a British jail after she was convicted of being a fake gemmologist known as Anna who pulled off the audacious theft right under the nose of the boss of Boodles of New Bond Street.

But Lukatos almost got away with the ‘perfect crime’ after distracting witnesses with her ample cleavage, an outrageous and expensive low-cut black dress, heavy make-up, thick-rimmed glasses and large hat – a world away from the dowdy and ‘plump’ grey-haired thief in the dock at Southwark Crown Court over the past month. 

In a plot resembling the Ocean’s 8 movie starring Anne Hathaway, the conwoman even fooled Boodles chairman Nicholas Wainwright by posing as a gemmologist hired by wealthy Russian businessmen seeking to purchase the precious stones from its flagship Mayfair store.

But unlike the glamorous gem thieves in the hit Hollywood movie, Lakatos resembled a plump ‘Russian dancer’ in a low-cut dress, flashing her ample cleavage to distract staff, witnesses said.

Gemmologist Emma Barton and Mr Wainwright were both hoodwinked after he agreed to sell the precious stones to a gang posing as Moscow millionaires with links to Israel. In fact Lakatos was part of a gang of grifters who had been travelling Europe trying to rip of banks and jewellers with her amazing sleight of hand.

The chairman, whose family have run the luxury jewellers for six generations, agreed to let a diamond expert known as Anna visit the basement of his flagship Mayfair store to inspect the gems when she swapped them for worthless pebbles without anyone noticing on March 10, 2016.

Sources with knowledge of the crime, and subsequent investigation, said after her arrest they believe it was actually inspired by a 2014 Channel 4 fly-on-the-wall documentary called The Million Pound Necklace: Inside Boodles, which offered a ‘privileged peek’ behind the scenes of the family-owned firm. 

And as for the society jeweller, they have recovered a small amount of funds via proceeds of crime proceedings, but remain millions out of pocket if the gems weren’t fully insured.

The intrinsic plan, most of which took place in London, began in Monaco before a heist that saw the protagonists 

Defendant Lulu Lakatos, 60, claimed her sister Liliana was responsible for the heist before being killed in a car crash

Lakatos outside Boodles on the day of the heist where she switched the padlocked bag with a duplicate one already stored within her handbag containing seven pebbles of the same weight as the diamonds

She stayed in Cricklewood before the theft, and then fled the country having dumped her disguise in a Victoria JD Wetherspoon pub toilet

March 2, 2016  

Nick Wainwright was contacted out of the blue by the aforementioned ‘Simon Glas’, who according to court papers claimed to be ‘the business associate of someone [he] knew’.

‘Glas’ said he was interested in purchasing high-value diamonds as an investment, and over the ensuing days managed to convince Mr Wainwright to travel to Monaco for a face-to-face meeting with a group of investors. He met three men, including the aforementioned Alexander, who ‘was posing as the prime mover’.

A deal was then struck whereby the group would buy seven specific diamonds. However, to verify that they were the specified size and quality, the Russians asked for their gemmologist to be allowed to inspect the stones at the Boodles HQ on New Bond Street.

March 7

Gang member called Christophe Stankovic — who like most of his accomplices is a French national of Albanian heritage — rented a Citroen DS4 hatchback at Charles De Gaulle airport outside Paris.

March 9 

Two days later, he and Jovanovic drove to the UK via the Channel Tunnel, entering Kent at 1.15pm. They then checked into the Best Western Hotel in Ilford, Essex, with two female accomplices.

At 8.15pm, ‘Anna’ left her friend behind and walked to a local cafe, where she was met by Stankovic and Jovanovic. The trio drove in the Citroen to New Bond Street in Central London, where they carried out surveillance on the Boodles store and its surroundings.

March 10

The day of the heist — the four gang members who had stayed in Ilford checked out of the hotel and took a minicab to Bond Street, where they arrived around 9.30am.

‘Anna’ and her female accomplice, for their part, got a cab to the Willow Walk pub, a branch of Wetherspoons near to Victoria Station, where the accomplice waited with their suitcases. Fast forward an hour, and ‘Anna’ was met at Boodles by Mr Wainwright and a gemmologist called Emma Barton.

She wore a dark coat, silk scarf and designer hat, and spoke with a thick French accent. Her name, she said, was ‘Anna’, and she was a gem expert hoping to inspect seven large diamonds on behalf of a wealthy Russian who’d agreed to buy them for £4.2 million.

‘Anna’ was escorted into a basement showroom by Michael’s brother Nick, the silver-haired chairman of Boodles who is renowned in moneyed circles both for his brilliant salesmanship and salmon-pink socks and ties.

A week earlier, he’d travelled to Monaco to negotiate the transaction with ‘Anna’s’ boss, who went by the name of ‘Alexander’, and a second gentleman who had set up the meeting, called ‘Simon Glas’.

Exactly 56 minutes later, having declared herself happy with the jewels, ‘Anna’ bid ‘au revoir’ and walked out of the store onto New Bond Street.

She left behind the diamonds, including a stunning 20-carat heart-shaped sparkler worth £2.2 million and measuring roughly the size of a Fox’s glacier mint. 

They had been placed in a padlocked pouch that Anna had brought with her and returned to Mr Wainwright, who’d then proceeded to lock them carefully away in the store’s safe.

Or so he thought.

In fact, ‘Anna’ had just carried out one of the most audacious heists in criminal history, using extraordinary sleight of hand to secretly swap the bag of gems for worthless pebbles packed in an identical pouch. 

It would later emerge that she’d hidden the real stones in a secret compartment in her handbag, and spirited them out of the boutique.

CCTV footage shows her quickly dropping the diamonds into one of their handbags (the second woman ‘attempted to shield the transaction’) before returning to the Willow Walk pub, where she adjourned to the toilets and changed clothes, replacing her dark coat with a light one in an apparent effort to throw off detectives studying CCTV footage.

She and the accomplice who had waited there for her then travelled to King’s Cross and caught a Eurostar train back to Paris.

Meanwhile, Stankovic and Jovanovic and the two women who now had the diamonds hailed separate taxis and asked to be taken to the Gants Hill roundabout in East London.

They then met up, walked back to their hotel, jumped in the Citroen, and returned to France via the Channel Tunnel. En route, they were seen on camera stopping on the A12 to deposit an object in a drain.

It remains unclear what that object actually was, but within three hours, they too were out of the UK.

The gems were to be placed in a padlocked purse and held in the jewellers’ vault until funds were transferred.

But CCTV footage from the family firm’s New Bond Street basement showroom captured the moment the purse was put into Anna’s handbag and switched for a duplicate just containing small rocks as Mr Wainwright went upstairs to take a telephone call from the Russian purchaser.

Lakatos moved the loot from her bag to the handbag of two unknown young women, who had been waiting in nearby Ralph Lauren and Cartier stores.

Those suspects have never been found. 

The thief from the Saint Brieuc region of France then changed her clothes in a pub toilet near Victoria station before leaving London on the Eurostar.

Within three hours, the gang had left the country with the haul, which included a £1.1 million three carat pear-shaped fancy pink diamond.

Two members of the gang, Mickael Jovanovic and Christophe Stankovic have already admitted conspiracy to steal.

Lakatos was arrested in France on September 24 last year and extradited to the UK to stand trial in December.

But in an extraordinary case Lulu Lakatos said her sister Liliana had confessed months before her death to being the fake gemmologist known as Anna who pulled off the audacious theft right under the nose of the boss of society jewellers Boodles.

The 60-year-old Romanian said her younger sister had used her passport to travel to the UK and carry out the eyewatering con in 2016, snatching gems including a heart-shaped diamond worth £2,215,138 in a ‘sleight of hand’.

Lakatos told Southwark Crown Court that her sibling took steps to age her appearance and stole her passport at a time that she was distracted by her husband’s prostate cancer.

The convicted thief, who admitted to having several convictions dating back to 2002, claimed her sister planned to hand herself into police in Paris.

But before she could do so, she was killed in a car accident in Constanta County, Romania.

The bespectacled grey-haired defendant produced a death certificate to prove her sister died aged 49 on October 1, 2019.

Jurors heard Liliana also had a string of convictions for theft and was wanted in Switzerland for theft and fraud at the time of her death.

Fingermarks left on the glass table in the Boodles showroom could not be matched to Lulu Lakatos’s prints.

A mixed DNA profile was recovered from the pebbles swapped for the diamonds which could not exclude either sister, jurors were told.

It also emerged that Boodles own gemmologist Emma Barton who witnessed the heist picked out Liliana as the culprit in an identification procedure. 

But, in his closing speech to the jury, Mr Stott said it was Lulu Lakatos, not her sister, who was captured on CCTV switching the diamonds for pebbles at Boodles before handing them to an accomplice and fleeing to France.

‘You can see her in the footage, it is her,’ he said.

‘What has happened here is very simple: The defendant has taken advantage of the fact that her sister sadly passed away in order to try and avoid the blame for this offence.’ 

Lula Lakatos, who has Romanian and Hungarian citizenship, had admitted she had carried out a series of minor thefts in France dating back to 2002.

Giving evidence through a French interpreter, she said: ‘I went through difficult times, financially, so I know it’s wrong to do it but I had difficult financial moments.

‘I have stopped because I was too scared to carry on with my life like this, so I tried to find other means.

‘I worked in short term contracts.

‘I was in school, in a canteen, I did some cleaning work.

‘I have been living in Saint-Brieuc since 1983, 1984, with my husband, later on I took an apartment with my sister.’ When Ioana Nedelcu, defending, asked: ‘Who is the person that has been called ‘Anna’ throughout these proceedings?

The 60-year-old dressed in a plain black dress, with her frizzy grey hair tied back in a ponytail, replied: ‘It is my sister, Liliana Lakatos.’ 

Lakatos told jurors she had not been in the UK since a trip with her sister and Georgeta Danila – another woman said to have been involved in the Boodles theft – in 2012.

Her sister only confessed after Danila was held by police months before Liliana’s death, she said.

‘When her friend Georgeta Danila has been stopped, this is when she confessed about the passport and everything else,’ Lakatos told the court.

‘In March 2016, I was in Saint-Brieuc, in France.

‘In 2016, my husband had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, I was dealing with that for the whole year.

‘At first, I was angry, and she promised that she will make everything up.

‘She wanted to do it herself. She promised me she needed time, she wanted to present herself. If she didn’t have this accident, she would be here today.’ But prosecutor Philip Stott suggested: ‘Is what is happened you have decided to take advantage of the fact your sister has passed away and sought to pin all the blame on her? That’s what you have done, haven’t you?’

Lakatos replied: ‘No, not at all sir. If my sister were alive, she would be standing here.

‘I would have preferred it if she was here, because she would have preferred to be in jail, because you can come back from jail, however, she can’t come back from where she is now.’ The prosecutor asked: ‘What your saying is that your sister has taken your passport, coloured her hair, gone to England to carry out this crime, returned to France, made herself look her normal age, to then return to your apartment to replace the passport, is that the suggestion you’re making?  

‘You would agree, wouldn’t you, that the woman we see in the CCTV look an awful lot like you doesn’t she?’

Lakatos replied: ‘It looks like, but it’s not me.’ She is alleged to have switched the diamonds to the handbag of an unknown woman before leaving London for France on the Eurostar with Danila.  

Boodles chairman Nicholas Wainwright said the woman he knew as ‘Anna’ was dressed ‘extraordinarily’.

The chairman, whose family have run the luxury jewellers for six generations, had agreed to let the supposed diamond expert visit the basement of his New Bond Street store to inspect the gems, when she allegedly swapped them for pebbles using ‘sleight of hand’ without anyone noticing on March 10, 2016.

In an elaborate sting by the thieves, Mr Wainwright had previously agreed the sale of the seven diamonds following a lunch meeting at Monaco’s Hotel Metropole.

But when the fake gemmologist arrived to inspect the gems, she ‘looked strange’.

‘This woman called Anna looked strange,’ he said.

‘She didn’t look at the stones through an eyeglass, as a gemmologist might do, and she didn’t check their certificates.’

The thief was driven to look at New Bond Street’s Boodles the night before the heist

This is the moment Lulu Lakatos swapped the diamonds for pebbles in a plot akin to a Hollywood heist movie in the Boodles basement

She then left the store and gave the purse to two women walking past outside -and they have never been traced

These are the diamonds grabbed in the heist worth more than £4.2million

Lakatos switched the padlocked bag with a duplicate one already stored within her handbag (pictured) containing seven pebbles of the same weight

Boodles jewellers were horrified to notice that the seven diamonds ‘Anna’ had inspected had been replaced by pebbles that were of similar size

Christophe Stankovic, a gang member involved in the heist, rented a Citroen DS4 hatchback in Paris and then checked into the Best Western Hotel in Ilford, Essex (pictured) with two other accomplices

After ‘Anna’ managed to steal the £4.2million worth of diamonds, she changed her clothes in a nearby Wetherspoons pub before fleeing to Kings Cross station to travel back to Paris via Eurostar

Nicholas Wainwright, Chairman of Boodles, which was hit by a £4.2million diamond theft

He told the court: ‘Anna was most unattractive, 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.’ He added, ‘I was watching her like a hawk,’ but said he was distracted by a call from the fake Russian buyer.

The behaviour of Lakatos, who has Romanian and Hungarian citizenship, also arouse the suspicions of Boodles’ own gemmologist Emma Barton who was watching. 

Miss Barton described the imposter: ‘She came in wearing a camel coat.

‘When she took it off, she was wearing a very low-cut black dress. She was wearing a hat very low-down, so I couldn’t see her forehead, and she was wearing a pair of glasses with thick arms.

‘She didn’t use a loupe, a jeweller’s eye glass. As a first point of call, that is what you would generally do.

‘She had some gemmologist’s equipment that she brought with her, scales, an ultraviolet light and a thermal conductivity probe.

‘She took each stone, weighed it, places it under ultraviolet light, and used the thermal conductivity probe.

‘She didn’t know how to use her equipment very well. First of all, would never use the ultraviolet light under shop lights, you need a darkened room.

‘It did make me question the qualifications that Anna had.’

The Romanian defendant is said to have chatted to Mr Wainwright in French as she weighed the jewels before wrapping each in pre-cut tissue paper and placing them inside opaque boxes she had brought along with her.

When the examination was complete, the boxes were placed into a zipped purse bag which was then padlocked shut while Boodles own gemmologist Emma Barton was watching, jurors heard.

But she managed to perform a swap with an identical bag full of pebbles after putting the diamonds in her handbag momentarily, it was alleged.

Miss Barton recalled: ‘I said ‘No, no, no, you can’t do that, please take them out of your handbag now, I have to see them at all times.’

‘She said: ‘It’s OK, don’t worry, it’s nothing to worry about.’

‘Then she took the bag out and placed it on the table.

‘Four million pounds worth of diamonds had been out of my sight.’ 

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