French police have recovered some of the millions in jewels looted from the Ritz hotel in Paris, a police source told AFP on Thursday, as officers hunt for two robbers who remain on the run.
The five men, who were wearing hoods, entered the lobby of the famous hotel on the Place Vendome at around 6.30 p.m. local time (12.30 p.m. ET) Wednesday, before a nearby police patrol intercepted the gang. More jewels and watches were found in a bag dropped by one of the two robbers who got away, another source added, without being able to give an estimate for the value of the goods retrieved.
The three inside were then blocked when they tried to flee through another door, and quickly arrested, the official said.
Place Vendome, with its opulent window displays, has been the scene of several audacious daytime raids, as many world-famous jewellers display their wares at the Ritz.
It was at the Ritz that Diana, Princess of Wales, spent her last night in 1997 before the auto crash that killed her and her lover Dodi Fayed, son of the hotel’s owner Mohammed al-Fayed.
The hotel, now owned by Egyptian billionaire Mohammed al-Fayed, first opened in 1898 and was the first Paris hotel to boast electricity on all floors and bathrooms that were inside rooms.
Wednesday’s robbery took place 18 months after the Ritz’s palatial doors were re-opened to guests following almost four years of renovations and a massive fire.
The motorcyclist dropped a bag with jewels and hatchets when his motorcycle hit a pedestrian during his escape.
The hotel’s management has declined to comment on the robbery.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb praised the police respsone.
Hotel security managed to trigger an automatic locking system during the heist, locking three of the robbers inside, Jean-François Legaret, the mayor of Paris’ 1st district, told CNN on Thursday.
France has found itself repeatedly in the headlines for high-profile robberies, particularly in Paris and on the Cote d’Azur.
The losses in those attacks ranged from 420,000 euros to two million euros.
Several high-end Paris jewellery stores have been targets of dramatic robberies in recent years, including Cartier, Harry Winston and Chopard.
A figure of 4.5 million euros ($5.42 million), announced earlier, related to the total value of the jewellery in the display cases.