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Friday, 18 May, 2001, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
Police hunt Versace thief
The boutique was on London's prestigious Old Bond Street
Italian fashion house Versace has admitted that jewellery and cash has been stolen from a safe at its showpiece London boutique.

Newspaper reports said the items stolen from the label's Old Bond Street boutique were worth up to 1.5 million and were taken while the store was closed overnight.

Among the jewellery taken was a ring worth 250,000 and a diamond-encrusted watch valued at 70,000, the Sun reported.

A spokeswoman for Versace in London refused to comment on suggestions that the suspected thief was a security guard at the store, saying the company was keen not to jeopardise investigations by Scotland Yard.

She added: "Initially, Versace were very anxious to keep this matter quiet to allow officers to pursue their inquiries."

No appeals

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman confirmed to BBC News Online that officers were investigating a theft of jewellery and cash at the store but refused to reveal whether police wanted to question a security guard.

"Police are investigating a theft from Versace taking place on the evening of 5 May.

Gianni and Donatella Versace
The late Gianni Versace's label has boutiques around the world
"A quantity of jewellery and cash was taken from the safe.

"We haven't issued any appeals but that doesn't mean to say we may not during the course of the investigation."

No arrests have been made and inquiries are continuing into the theft which police were alerted to on Monday 7 May.

Fugitive guard

The guard was said to have been on duty alone at the shop while it was closed on the night of Saturday 5 May.

The case has been compared by newspapers to that of Phil Wells, who was one of Britain's most wanted men after stealing more than 1m in foreign currency from London's Heathrow Airport.

Philip Wells, nicknamed "Florida Phil" during his four years on the run, travelled the world between the theft on 14 July 1989 and his capture in London in May 1993.

Wells was a 2.50-an-hour guard for a security firm when he collected the cash from a Portuguese plane at Heathrow and fled in his Ford Fiesta.

British stars known to wear Versace include Liz Hurley, Sir Elton John and former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell.

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