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Commonwealth Games 2002

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Monday, 18 February, 2002, 16:09 GMT
Dome chiefs waited for raid
The case which housed the valuable Millennium Star diamond
The Dome's shattered diamond case
Only a handful of Millennium Dome executives were informed by police of the diamond heist being planned for the south east London attraction.

Chief executive P-Y Gerbeau and newly-appointed executive chairman David James had taken it in turns to go into work at 4am on the 12 days when the raid was thought most likely to take place.

The thieves were all on the ground trussed up like Christmas turkeys

David James

Two executive directors and the head of security were also informed of the undercover police operation, nine weeks before the raid actually happened in November 2000.

But on the fateful day, Mr James said he missed out on the high drama of the gang's capture because he had nipped to the toilet.

Under wraps

All the Dome chiefs were sworn to secrecy and Mr Gerbeau was not allowed to tell even trusted members of his own team about the police operation.

Mr James said: "The police said they were not quite certain how these people were going to do it and they had no evidence to apprehend them beforehand.

"We were told there were certain days when it may happen and times of high tide were most likely.

"It was going to take place just before or after the exhibition opened because they didn't want a lot of people around."

A 100-metre cordon had been placed around the diamond area, saying it was under maintenance.

Caught short

On the day of the raid, it was Mr James' turn to sit in the control room waiting for the gang to strike.

But he says he missed out on witnessing the gang's dramatic capture because of a call of nature.
Millennium Dome's David James
David James was informed by police of the operation

"My thoughts just beforehand were that this was a lot of nonsense and was never going to happen," he said.

"Then I got up and went to the toilet and missed the whole thing. I was very annoyed."

When he came back Mr James and Mr Gerbeau took a buggy down to the scene.

Joking with police

"The thieves were all on the ground trussed up like Christmas turkeys," said Mr James.

"It was relatively calm and they were almost joking with the police who were standing over them with guns."
Radio scanner
A radio scanner recovered by police after the gang were caught

Mr James said he was always confident that the police had the situation under control and the public were not at risk.

At the time there were 64 visitors inside the Dome but none were within 100 metres of the dramatic events.

"The only complaint we had was from a party from Devon who were seriously miffed that they had not been allowed to see it," he said.

But while Dome executives and police officers from Operation Magician were lying in wait for what would have been biggest heist in history, there was one element that Mr James said took many by surprise.

He said: "We had been uncertain how they would get in and police didn't ever tell me, or, I think, believe, that they would use a digger as a battering ram."

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