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Ex-cop: Holborn fireball comms outage cover for £200m bling heist gang

Fun theory, but it's hardly 'nearby'. Other end of High Holborn, and beyond.

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but maybe close enough?

El Reg's original report noted that services across London were affected and "Holborn is home to a BT switching station".

OTOH, this is all premised on a comment by a retired cop who has never heard of an electricity network fire that large. I don't think he's lying, but would he have heard of it? I mean, it would be a bit more meaningful if a power network manager (or whatever) said they'd never heard of a fire that size. If a network engineer said he'd never heard of a diamond theft that big, no-one would pay much attention because her/his expertise isn't in that field...

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Fun theory, but it's hardly 'nearby'. Other end of High Holborn, and beyond.

On the Internet, there isn't such a thing as distance. Only ping times and latency :).

I think the theory has merit, though, it's *exactly* because it's not next door that it makes sense - you wouldn't want to have the emergency services on top of you when you're pulling off a heist like that, you want them elsewhere engaged.

But for the moment it remains a theory AFAIK - I haven't seen anything tie the two together other than timing.

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What are the chances that the "alarm system" was somehow tied into those BT lines affected by the outage?

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I think he's perfectly likely to have heard of it if there was ever a fire of that scale in his working lifetime; surely any disaster big enough to cause evacuations would be an all hands to the pump job for all the emergency services.

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Anonymous Coward

Well, today's alarm systems tend to use GSM for their signalling, with the landline as the backup. A bit more (local) resilience on the GSM front, after all.

Though, of course, the alarm system may not have been that modern....

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Anonymous Coward

"Comment by a retired cop looking for a Fleet Stree payday and getting his face in the papers who has never ..."

FTFY

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Black Helicopters

@AC re GSM

You do realize that they can easily knock out mobile traffic too.

Not to mention that the nearby antennas for cell communication also use the same BT lines..

So if you knock out a large enough area in terms of power and cell towers, and then knock out the local cell traffic with a blocker... You've pretty much shut that avenue down...

Of course this is redundant because they took out the alarm system too.

This would only leave radio as an option, but that too can be jammed to a point.

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This post has been deleted by its author

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Re: Possible

Looks like it may have been started by someone smoking dope down there...

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Anonymous Coward

Copper thieves

Our experience with copper thieves is that they know exactly what they are doing. They will strip out all the earth and neutral copperwork, leaving all the live stuff in place. The supply will stay on, and you only know about it when a fault occurs and the protection does not work as expected because you have compromised earth and neutral lines.

Because of the energy available in HV distribution circuits, it would be difficult to cause a fault that does not either kill you in the resulting fireball, or simply trip remote protection resulting in a power cut but no fire.

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Ru'

Re: Copper thieves

Out of interest, how would the circuit still operate without any neutral/earth cabling?

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Flame

Re: Copper thieves - Missing neutral

1. There may well be no seperate earth. Likely the cabling is PME (protective multiple earth) where the neutral is tied to earth at regular intervals and is used as the earth return.

2. Provided the phases are balanced (identical loads) there will be nothing whatsoever happening in the neutral. In practice that's almost never the case of course, but the currents should be orders of magnitude less than the phases. Also the neutral will be at about earth potential, so "safe"* to hanlle in a live system. For PME the multiple earth bonding required will probably mean that the mass of earth will quite happily take the residual current.

* For pikey definitions of "safe". Just hope a phase doesn't drop out eg because a digger hunks up a cable oranother bunch of pikeys cuts the wrong cable or gets greedy and tries to nick the lot at the same time.

As an aside, I remember when I was working at Macaroni Comms at Writtle we had an intermittant camp behind the site. The council decided to stick a couple of heavy timber posts in to deter access. They did decide to plant 'em deep. Anyways, about four feet down the engineering team found a salt glazed pipe in the way...

Cue large digging spike. <<FLASH>>.(11 kV). He survived. Power went out at some point and the site went over to genny. Over lunch I went out to have a look. There were burn marks at the top of the hole and below, but no spike. Apparently he went back down to retreive the spike cue <<FLASH>> and the loss of power. He survived again.

Darwin is cruel sometimes.

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Re: Copper thieves

No ground or neutral at the location the thieves are working, but other nearby(ish) neutrals and grounds serve the purpose?

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Re: Possible

"Looks like it may have been started by someone smoking dope down there..."

Sure if they were smoking thermite.

Once you get it started, you can't put it out. Not too terribly complicated, although you need to get the mix right otherwise it goes boom or doesn't work. This would burn through almost everything.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Copper thieves

Quite easily. It's a three phase supply, there is no requirement for a neutral. The cable sheath and/or screen will be grounded, either at both ends (solid bond) or at one end only (single point bond). The circuit will still work if the ground is missing but the induced voltage in the sheath would rise to potentially lethal levels. (There's cross bonding as well, which is something different to what gets referred to as cross bonding in domestic wiring, but that's a special case of single point bonding).

This circuit being elderly oil-filled cables means that once the fault occurred there would be a nice source of fuel to feed the fire. (Not sure if it's a multicore cable or three cables in trefoil formation)

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John O’Connor, former head of Scotland Yard's Flying Squad

Reading his theory explains why he is "former" rather than "current".

I have my own theory - the fire was started by Sky/Virgin/Talk Talk in a hissy fit against BT Openreach.

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I'm guessing he's former Flying Squad because the Flying Squad doesn't exist any more?

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Facepalm

I believe it does still very much exist. "The Flying Squad is a branch of the Specialist, Organised & Economic Crime Command within London's Metropolitan Police Service. The Squad's purpose is to investigate commercial armed robberies, along with the prevention and investigation of other serious armed crime."

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It does sound like something from a movie... since the thieves entrance had to be planned well in advance. I guess the unanswered question for now is: coincidence or planned mayhem? I suppose it's not too farfetched to think it the fire was planned IF the crooks had knowledge of the power/phone and internet cabling and that was a critical junction point.

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Plausible

Being in a movie doesn't necessarily make something a bad idea (although it often does, in fairness, but it's correlation, not causal).

I'd day plausible - if doddery old Fingers McMetal was looking for scrap, what's the cost of sending him down Holborn on the right weekend? He fucks up comms whilst he's there, it may affect alarms, which can only be a good thing for you. If he blows himself up, even better, you don't have to pay him the few grand you promised. Put another way, you're about to do a nine-figure blag, why not stack the cards in your favour with something that can only count in your favour?

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Hollywood Eat Your Heart Out

Does anyone else think this sounds like a cliched movie script? If this is really how it went down then you have to take your hat off to the sheer audacity and imagination of these guys.

Though I hasten to add that they deserve locking up forever given the staggering amount of damage the could have caused and the lives they put at risk.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hollywood Eat Your Heart Out

Never mind Hollywood, it instantly reminded me of the plots of two quite watchable British heist films:

In "Sexy Beast", the crims use the premises of a Sauna to drill through the wall of the pool into the bank vault next door.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0203119/?ref_=nv_sr_1

In "The Bank Job", the crims rent a shop next to the bank and tunnel from the basement down into underground tunnels running below the vault and then up through the vault floor. The police are tipped off briefly visit the outside of the locked vault while the heist is in progress.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0200465/?ref_=nv_sr_1

In the first film, water flooding into the vault from the pool when they break through the wall - disabling the security system and allowing the heist to be carried out.

In the latter film, the bank's alarm is out of action, making the heist possible - which chimes with the point of this Reg article...

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Re: Hollywood Eat Your Heart Out

You get an upvote just for mentioning Sexy Beast

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Hollywood Eat Your Heart Out

The Bank Job film was based loosely on a genuine crime, the 1971 Barclays Bank burglary near Baker Street. I don't think that there were any naughty photos of Princess Margaret in the real crime though.

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Childcatcher

Re: Hollywood Eat Your Heart Out

Per "The Bank Job", it was probably MI6 recovering naughty videos of Princes Andrew and Harry from the vault. Cleaning up the gold and jewels was just a bonus.

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Re: Hollywood Eat Your Heart Out

The strange thing is that I just watched the excellent Belgian series, Salamander, the night before this news broke...

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@Elmer Phud

"You get an upvote just for mentioning Sexy Beast';

And an upvote to you too!

How could one and the same person play both Gandhi, and Don Logan? Still baffles me...

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Theft is bad.

But I can't help feeling ever so slightly impressed with their work.

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Anonymous Coward

Transatlantic twonk

It's "JEWELLERY"

jewelry, inded.

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Headmaster

Re: Transatlantic twonk

Just reading the comments to seeif someone had beaten me to it. Have an upvote!

Wrong icon though.... :-)

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Go

Re: Transatlantic twonk

+1 for Transatlantic Twonk.

I learn an new insult here almost every day

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Re: Transatlantic twonk

Ditto fiber / fibre.

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Re: Transatlantic twonk

and it's in 'hoburn' not Hol-born (which isn't far from Wesminister - Westminister, more Brits have problems with that than anyone else)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Transatlantic twonk

Jewellery? Acceptable but surely this calls for - TOMFOOLERY

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Re: Transatlantic twonk

"+1 for Transatlantic Twonk."

Ditto, especially for the shore-neutral equality of of the lexical construction meaning it can be used from either side.

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Re: Transatlantic twonk

Not to mention 'safety deposit boxes' and 'internet fibre lines'.

Is no-one proud of their word skills / language / country / spell checker? Don't be sheep.

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(Written by Reg staff)

Re: Re: Transatlantic twonk

This was written by our US desk. Wind your necks in.

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Re: Transatlantic twonk

@ gazthejourno: In some ways that's even worse

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Joke

Sounds like a script for a "die hard" movie...

Someone call John Mclane...

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Black Helicopters

Re: Sounds like a script for a "die hard" movie...

I was just wondering if Hans and Simon have any other brothers who might be a bit upset by their family losses...

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Re: Sounds like a script for a "die hard" movie...

You got down voted because Bruce Willis has run his course.

Maybe a job for Ashton Kutcher ?

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Paris Hilton

Could they make more from the film rights than they do from the robbery?

>>> Paris knows all about filming.

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OK, but how would this incident have helped their heist? As far as I understand it was too far away to cause any noise to drown out the sound of their own activity, people in the area of the heist weren't evacuated, and as for tying up the emergency services - really? I can't see the Met not responding to a phone call or alarm activation because they maybe had a couple of their cars busy a bit further away with a road closure?

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"Alarm"

"BT outage"

Join the dots.

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" I can't see the Met not responding to a phone call or alarm activation because they maybe had a couple of their cars busy . . . "

The way things are with the Met (no, not the City Cops - that;s a different universe entirely) they may only have a couple of cars in the centre of town.

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Anonymous Coward

Met?

Wouldn't it be City police in Hatton Garden? Thought they didn't talk to the Met...

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Boffin

easter weekend....

I agree....The offices were empty for the weekend. surely more of a contributory factor?

Also, I don't think there would be sufficient noise would attract much attention...

Of course, it could be an inside job....uninsured jewels!!!

P.

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Re: Met?

No, Hatton Garden is just outside the City of London (it's in the borough of Camden),

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Len

This doesn't add up at all

First of all was the fire quite some distance from Hatton Garden. Over a kilometre as the crow flies and considerably longer by road. They are not even in the same district.

Second of all, the fire was on Wednesday while the crims are thought to have started on Friday because the vault would have been open on Thursday as usual.

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