Bournemouth Man Jailed Over Britain's Biggest Jewellery Raid

A gunman who terrified staff as he carried out the UK's biggest jewellery robbery in central London has been jailed for 23 years.

Aman Kassaye planned and executed the "high stakes'' heist at Graff Diamonds in Mayfair last summer, in which £40 million of gems were stolen at gunpoint.

He used a professional make-up artist to disguise his appearance and a series of getaway cars to escape across the capital, shooting at anybody who got in his way, Woolwich Crown Court heard.

Kassaye, of no fixed address, was jailed for 16 years for conspiracy to rob, a further five years for possessing a firearm and a further two years for kidnap, a court official said.

Petra Ehnar, a shop assistant at the store in New Bond Street, told the jury she was "petrified'' when the robbers forced her to empty the store's display cabinets with a gun to her back. She filled a bag with 43 pieces of jewellery including earrings, necklaces and watches worth a total of #40 million. One diamond necklace alone was valued at £3.5 million. The gems taken in the robbery have never been recovered.

Ms Ehnar, who was forced into the street by the robbers as they made their getaway, was told she would be killed if she did not carry out their demands.

Three other men - Solomun Beyene, 25, of Marylebone, north-west London; Clinton Mogg, 43, of Bournemouth; and Thomas Thomas, 46, of Penrhyn Road, Kingston upon Thames - were each jailed for 16 years after also being convicted of conspiracy to rob, the court official said.

Footage was shown to the jury of Kassaye firing a shot in the street outside the store as passers-by began to realise what was happening, sending them running for cover. Kassaye's defence rested on his assertion that the raid was carried out ``by someone remarkably like him'', but he was identified by Ms Ehnar.

Scotland Yard appealed for the public to help them trace the motorcyclist dubbed "The Stig'' who is suspected of making off with the remarkable haul of gems. Detective Chief Inspector Pam Mace, of the Flying Squad, said the "fast-moving complex investigation'' was ongoing and a reward of up to #1 million was still on offer.

The four men sentenced on Friday were all convicted of conspiracy to rob the jeweller's between August 3 and August 7, 2009. The heist dwarfed what is thought to be Britain's previous biggest jewellery robbery, a £23 million raid at the same store in 2003.