With the personal intervention of Police Commissioner David Baines at 8 a.m. on New Year’s Day, police halted a daring three-man armed robbery at Diamonds International Watch and Design in the heart of downtown George Town.
No shots were fired, and no one was injured during the robbery in which three masked men, one of them carrying a handgun, took an estimated $1 million in jewelry from the shop on North Church Street, leaving behind between $50,000 and $100,000 in damage to the premises.
Police arrived at the scene almost immediately after an in-store “panic button” triggered the alarm, while, coincidentally, Mr. Baines was driving past in the street.
“I‘d actually gone to meet some friends coming off a cruise ship, and we had set the meeting place at Diamonds International,” he told the Caymanian Compass.
“As I arrived, I saw a security guy running out of DI, looking concerned, under stress, and as I looked into the shop, I could see at least two masked men.”
Spinning his Chevrolet Trailblazer SUV around, he saw three men running from the store, heading “into the car-park to the left of the door” of the Diamonds International shop, where they got into a vehicle.
“I ran the car to try and block them,” Mr. Baines said, cutting off egress from the parking area. “I was partially successful. They climbed out of the car and started running towards the Legislative Assembly building, so I went after them and hit two of the guys up against the fence.
“The third one somehow slipped beneath my car and was trapped. I am told he’s OK, nothing life-threatening.” According to a police report, that suspect “was injured in apprehension and is being treated at the George Town [Cayman Islands] Hospital.”
Both the commissioner and Diamonds International personnel who witnessed the event were effusive in their thanks to members of the public who grappled with the suspects pinned by Mr. Baines until more police arrived.
“The immediate response from tour bus operators and shopkeepers in the area was fantastic,” Mr. Baines said. “They came out, and I had swarms of people all around me, grabbing two of the guys. The courage of these people should be congratulated and praised.”
At Diamonds International, management personnel, requesting anonymity, said, “This is an unbelievable story…We want to recognize the people, lots of people, who came out, and thank God for the commissioner of police.”
The incident began, Diamonds International spokesmen said, “about 8 a.m. when three guys came into the store, one of them armed, and with a gun to the head of a security guy.
The other two smashed 40 [of about 80] of our showcases, and put the merchandise into bags.
When they went out of the store, the police commissioner was right there.”
Losses were, in fact, minimal as police seized everything the robbers carried, although the spokesperson estimated the value of the stolen goods at approximately $1 million.
“The biggest losses, however, are in trade,” he said, “with four cruise ships in port today and another five tomorrow.
“I would say damage to the store is between $50,000 and $100,000.”
Diamonds International has nearly 140 shops internationally, but “this is the first time anything like this has happened in Grand Cayman.
I worry about the damage to the reputation of Grand Cayman.”
The thieves arrived only 10 minutes before the first tourists, he said, “There are 10,000 people walking out of the terminal, and this is what they are watching.”
Police later reported the arrest of a fourth man in connection with the robbery, although no details were immediately available.
A fifth man was also detained just after the thieves left the store.
Described by Mr. Baines as “an opportunist,” the man happened to pass the scene as the robbery was unfolding.
“He walked in and took some items, Mr. Baines said. Police reports later confirmed “the arrest of a male who walked into the store and stole jewelry following the [robbers] fleeing and the commotion immediately after.
“The jewelry,” he stole, the release finished, “was recovered,” noting the incident did “not appear to be a part of the earlier robbery.”