A bag found at Paris’ famed Ritz Hotel is “likely to contain” the 4 million euros ($4.8 million) worth of jewels that were stolen from the hotel, a spokesman for the city’s public prosecutor said Thursday.
The news came a day after a daring smash-and-grab robbery was reported at the five-star landmark. Police said a gang of axe-wielding thieves stormed the hotel, busted into display cases and snatched the precious jewelry.
Terrified guests were forced to take cover as shots rang out, witnesses said.
Three suspects were arrested at the scene, but two others escaped with at least some of the gems, police said.
The car used to flee the scene has been found charred, the prosecutor’s spokesman said. He said authorities were able to match the burned wreckage by its license.
But the more valuable — and surprising — discovery was the bag. Authorities are checking its contents to see whether it indeed contains all the missing jewels.
Authorities did not say where in the hotel the bag was found, nor did they say how it may have been separated from the robbers.
‘He had an ax in his hand’
Niki Lazar, a 21-year-old woman from Chicago, told CNN that she was having a drink with her parents in the Ritz’s Hemingway Bar when she saw a man wearing a ski mask run into the hotel.
“(He) ran right from the back door of the bar to the front, right past my father. He had an ax in his hand,” she said. “Immediately the bartender closed and locked the door and (corralled) everyone to the back kitchen area of the bar.”
Lazar said “at least 10 rounds of gunfire” rang out she took cover behind the bar, where she and other patrons remained hidden for several minutes. She said she later saw one of the bartenders being tended to by a paramedic.
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.
“I would say that this was a very violent, armed attack by a large, well-organized and professional gang,” Legaret said. “They are people who are already known by the police services.”
A popular tourist spot
The Ritz Hotel is in Place Vendôme, not far from popular landmarks such as the Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries.
The hotel has an on-site shopping area with five high-end boutiques and 95 display cases for luxury goods.
The robbery was the second major jewel heist in a major European city in a week.
That robbery occurred at the Doge’s Palace, a popular tourist spot in Venice, where the selection of Indian jewelry was on display to the public. One suspect may have acted as a lookout while the other grabbed the jewels from a display case, police said.
The stolen items included a pair of earrings and a brooch made of diamonds, gold and platinum.