Safes lost in fire damage from summer riots are lifted from rubble.
Albermarle & Bond (A&B) has managed to retrieve £4 million-worth of pawned jewellery from the wreckage of its Croydon store that was burned to the ground in the summer riots.
Nearly 4,500 pieces of jewellery were locked inside five safes in the basement of the store and A&B chief executive Barry Stevenson told The Financial Times that he feared it would all be destroyed following the eight-hour blaze at the shop in July.
It has taken nearly five months for A&B to retrieve the safes, which were buried under rubble, as the building was deemed a dangerous structure.
The retrieval operation to get the gold out was completed with the help of safe crackers and armed police.
Although the torching of the A&B Croydon shop was kept quiet by the company, news of the buried safes reached the ears of criminal gangs. The pawnbroker said that it was approached by persons, who police have since said were local criminals, pretending to be from newspapers and asking when the safes would be lifted out so that they could send photographers.
Due to the high value of goods buried at the site A&B’s insurers demanded that the burned out shop was protected by CCTV and 24-hour security. Despite these measures, criminals still made several attempts to break into the site but were stopped short by security staff.
By the time the safes were ready to be removed, Stevenson had lost faith that any of the jewellery – pawned by customers who were by then very distraught at the thought of losing sentimental goods – would survive intact. He had even gone so far as to contact a specialist smelting company in preparation of having to refine and separate different carats of gold.
Luckily, as fate would have it, the safes emerges uncracked, the jewellery was mostly all in tact – something A&B said led its customers to tears of joy – and the operation was completed without any attempts by criminals to steal the safes.