What happened in The Million Pound Dome Heist?

“It’s diamonds. It’s old school robbery. It’s kind of out of a movie, really.” – Former officer Carol from the Met Police’s elite surveillance arm SO11.

This new documentary features Ross Kemp on an investigative journey to discover the untold story of the Millennium Dome heist – one of the biggest and most audacious gem raids ever attempted on British soil.  

Twenty years on from the raid, this documentary uses never-before-seen photographic evidence as well as surveillance footage to piece together the movements of the gang, which consisted of seven criminals equipped with a bulldozer and a speedboat as they set out to steal £350 million worth of diamonds from the Millennium Dome. 

The Millennium Dome Heist With Ross Kemp

Instead the raiders were foiled by an undercover Flying Squad operation, every bit as bold and daring as their own. Ross tracks down the key players in the police operation, many of whom have never spoken publicly before – from veteran detectives and surveillance operatives who shadowed the gang’s every move, to the firearms officers who made the arrests inside the diamond vault. 

He takes them back to the original crime scenes to reflect on the operation, blow-by-blow, to reveal the behind-the-scenes story of how they managed to track and then catch the would-be robbers in the act.

The target was £350 million worth of De Beers diamonds – a unique collection of gems with the 203-carat flawless Millennium Star diamond as its centrepiece. 

The diamonds were on show to the public at the newly opened Millennium Dome landmark and tourist attraction where on November 7, 2000, among families and school children, the gang decided to strike in broad daylight – smashing through the perimeter fence with a JCB, throwing smoke grenades and using nail guns and sledgehammers to steal the diamonds.

The story started nine months earlier when raiders using similar methods attempted to rob two security vans in London and in Kent. Using a truck-mounted steel spike, their plan was to violently prize open the van’s back door and force the occupants to hand over the cash with firearms. In both robberies, only one of which was connected to a single Dome raider, Lee Wenham, they failed to steal any money but managed to escape via a speedboat. 

Having set up surveillance on Wenham, police intelligence suggested that he had something even bigger planned, so officers secretly set up the Flying Squad’s biggest and most expensive operation in its 100-year history, codenamed ‘Magician’ to try to catch the criminals involved red-handed.

Jools Lloyd, whose undercover team followed the gang for several months, even tracking their speedboat to Whitstable in Kent, on an apparent test run. He said his excitement was building. “We’ve got two previous robberies where a speedboat, a boat’s been used. And it’s unique. It had almost gone past the gut feeling, you know, but we were on the right people. We knew that. And then you kind of start getting excited a bit.”

A suspected gang member was spotted repeatedly visiting the £350 million De Beers diamonds exhibit at the Millennium Dome attraction. If this was the next target, then it would net a bigger haul than Brinks Mat, Hatton Garden, and the Great Train Robbery put together.

Ross reveals how this nail-biting operation played out with an army of surveillance operatives following the gang around the clock, crack teams of firearms officers smuggled into a tunnel under the Dome and on speedboats, and the detectives ready to make the call with the reputation of the Met Police at stake.

Clive Rew from the Met’s firearms unit, was asked to plan a river arrest for when the robbers made for their speedboat moored up outside the Dome, and explains that such a plan posed an even higher risk to the public if the gang were armed. “That was one of my fears if the gang was so desperate to get away. They could easily grab a member of the public, take them as a hostage, use them as a human shield.”

The raiders sprung a surprise by using the JCB to batter their way inside the Dome and driving it up to the entrance of Money Zone, where the Dome was encased in a high security cabinet. SO11 officer Carol explains that she was coincidentally close to the door which the digger crashed through to get into the building. She says: “I mean, if we’d have been stood there we wouldn’t have a chance. We heard the crash turned round and realised, ‘Oh my God it’s coming in.’ It was this huge JCB with a bucket on the front. And I just remember the bucket bouncing up and down, orange flashing lights. It’s going fast. It wasn’t stopping.”

Under the dome, firearms officers hid inside a specially-constructed space in a service tunnel, waiting to spring out to try to arrest the raiders when the signal came.

One of them, known as Steve, says: “We waited…. And waited. Time slows down. It’s quite weird. And then it came over the radio. Those words we’ve been waiting for. Attack, attack, attack.”

For the first time, this film reveals the untold story of a crime that marked the end of a criminal era and what would become one of the most daring heists ever attempted in British history. 

Watch The Millennium Dome Heist With Ross Kemp tonight at 9pm on itv. Stream on demand via itv hub.

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