Ross Kemp to uncover story of thieves who used JCB digger in £350m diamond heist

Tonight Ross Kemp will front a new ITV documentary about the attempted robbery of a diamond exhibition from the Millennium Dome back in 2000.

In the documentary, Ross goes on an investigative journey to discover the untold story of one of the biggest and most audacious gem raids ever attempted in the UK.

Seven criminals, equipped with a JCB digger and a speedboat, set out to steal £350million worth of diamonds.

The documentary will show never-seen-before photo evidence, as well as surveillance footage which shows the gang’s movements.

Here is the unbelievable true story of what happened – and no it’s not a James Bond plot line.

Back in 2000, the O2 Arena was known as the Millennium Dome, and in November it housed the De Beers diamond exhibition.

The most famous item of the exhibition was the famous Millennium Star, a flawless 203.04 carat diamond with an estimated value of £200million.

A plan had been carefully orchestrated to steal the jewels on display and escape on a speedboat.

But little did the thieves know, the police had an earlier tip-off, and were already inside dressed as cleaning staff.

The police had formed a secret investigation, with the codename Operation Magician, in order to find out who the culprits were, and what their target was.

The story begins back in February 200, when a gang of armed robbers attempted to raid a security van in Nine Elms, south London.

However, their plan failed and they had to make a getaway in a in inflatable speedboat.

The gang attempted the raid again in July the same year, but this time in Aylesford, Kent.

This time they came much closer to succeeding, but an intervention by police forced gunmen to flee on a speedboat.

These unsuccessful robberies came to the attention of the Metropolitan police, who were informed that the robbers might be after the jewels.

Three of the plotters , Lee Wenham, Raymond Betson and William Cockram, were identified and monitored from September 1 2000.

They were visiting the Dome while the Thames was at high tide, and recording video footage, leading the police to suspect it might be their target.

Police were then able to plan for what was about to happen on November 7 2000.

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A total of 200 police officers were ready to intercept the criminals around the Dome and the Thames.

On the morning of November 7, four gang members were identified on a JCB digger, wearing body armour and gas masks.

They used the digger to break through the fence and enter the Dome, where they began throwing smoke bombs and attempting to break the glass of what was referred to as “the Money Zone”.

When the robbers were just inches from the diamonds, they were interrupted by police who arrested them.

Two other men were arrested outside the Dome – one was in a speedboat which the police assumed they would use to escape.

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Police also arrested another man who they suspected of monitoring police radio frequencies.

Only six members of the gang were trialled in court, because the seventh had died of cancer.

The other gang members all received prison sentences of varying lengths.

If the plan hadn’t been foiled, a whopping £350million worth of diamonds had been taken.

The Millennium Dome Heist With Ross Kemp airs tonight at 9pm on ITV

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