The Graff jewellery robbers were a gang of small-time drug dealers, two of whom still lived with their parents, who were picked by a criminal mastermind to carry out the biggest diamond raid in British history. Here are profiles of the four men found guilty.
Aman Kassaye, 25 – ringleader and armed robber
The gang ringleader, Kassaye was a convicted drug user and dealer who was living with his parents under police bail when he carried out the audacious raid.
In the aftermath he fled to Liverpool, where he had a neck tattoo depicting a set of stars in an attempt to change his appearance, before returning to stay in the four-star Kensington Close Hotel. He used a false name and ran up a £1,000 bill before police tracked him down.
When Kassaye was arrested by Flying Squad officers close he told them: “You don’t have to do this, nobody got hurt.”
Police discovered a set of passport photos in his room – suggesting he was ready to flee the country using a false passport – and also discovered a quantity of modified blank pistol cartridges – the type used in the raid.
Born in Ethiopia, Kassaye was the son of a captain in the local police force and moved to Britain with his family when he was three-years-old. He grew up with two sisters and a brother at the family home on the Lisson Green estate in St John’s Wood, northwest London – where the friends he made became his accomplices.
Kassaye left North Westminster School aged 16 with eight GCSEs, and began using and dealing in cannabis, then cocaine.
Aged 18, he was convicted of possession of an offensive weapon. He went to St Mary’s University in Twickenham, west London, but dropped out of a media degree because he ‘”couldn’t keep up”.
In 2003 he was convicted twice, receiving a £150 fine for possessing Ecstasy and a two-year conditional discharge for having crack cocaine.
But he continued to build his drugs business, which generated up to £500 profit a week.
In June 2008 he moved to Viridian Apartments in Battersea, where he rented a flat for £1,350-a-month. By the time of the robbery Kassaye was on police bail, on condition he lived with his parents, having been arrested in November 2008 for possession of cocaine.
Neighbours said they doubted he was capable of masterminding the Graff robbery.
A neighbour said: “When we heard that he was supposed to be the ringleader of this raid, we just laughed because it seemed so far-fetched. I only knew of his as a student who had been in a bit of trouble for drugs before, not some kind of criminal mastermind. He was still living with his mum.”
Soloman Beyene, 25 – second in command
A university graduate and convicted drug dealer, Beyene was only released from jail a month before the robbery – but became a key organiser.
He was Aman Kassaye’s second-in-command and had been his main partner in dealing drugs to affluent foreign students at a private London college, most of whom lived and socialised in South Kensington and Chelsea.
After being caught with cannabis in February last year he was jailed for nine months but was released having served half of his sentence by July. He was immediately cut into the plot.
Beyene bought nine mobile phones for the gang and during one visit to a phone shop he was seen handing out cash to others to buy more handsets.
He also hired a Ford Transit van which was seen in New Bond Street before the raid and was used to block a police car responding to a 999 call.
He grew up with Kassaye on the Lisson Green council estate in north west London and was still living at his parents’ two-bedroom flat at the time of the raid.
Residents described him as a “wannabe gangster” whose descent into small-time drug dealing had left his “hard-working and respectable parents” ashamed.
A neighbour said: “He liked to be known as ‘Sol’ and tried to cultivate this image of being a bit of a gangster.
“When we were in our late teens, we bought into it, because he was older than us. He’d point an imaginary pistol at us with his fingers, say ‘aye’ a lot and try to sound like a drug baron off The Wire.
“But all his macho posturing was really quite ridiculous because he was still living with his mum and dad, and wasn’t doing much more than peddling a bit of puff on the side.”
Another neighbour added: “His poor parents. They are a very hard-working and respectable family but they have been left ashamed by what their son has become.
“He had been in a bit of trouble before but nothing major. It’s hard to imagine how he got wrapped up in this jewellery raid.”
Clinton ‘Jamal’ Mogg, 43 – getaway driver
Mogg, a Muslim convert, was one of the getaway drivers and another drug dealing friend of Aman Kassaye.
After his arrest, his father claimed that his son, a father-of-two who left school with no qualifications, was “not clever enough” to be part of such an extraordinary plot.
Mogg is suspected of driving the silver Mercedes A-Class getaway car.
When police arrested him he immediately provided them with a false letter from Abbey estate agents, which claimed he had been at an interview in Bournemouth on August 6.
Mogg’s mistake was that police wanted to question him about his involvement two days earlier in a “dry run” of the robbery and had not asked him about movements on the later date.
Thomas Thomas, 45 – ‘blocking’ driver
When police swooped on the north London home of Thomas, the eldest gang member, they discovered it had been converted into a cannabis factory.
Thomas’s bags were packed but he was nowhere to be seen, until officers looked outside and noticed the bulky, bald, 6ft 2in man hiding up a tree in a neighbour’s back garden.
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