Two men jailed in clampdown on London's Rolex Ripper crime wave

Robbers used machetes in violent attacks in which they stole two Rolex watches

Nizar Msaad, left, and Shaquille Allen were each sentenced to 40 months in prison. Photo: Metropolitan Police
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Two men have been jailed for stealing Rolex watches in violent attacks, as authorities crack down on a crime wave afflicting London.

Nizar Msaad, 22, and Shaquille Allen, 26, had pleaded guilty to two counts of robbery and three counts of attempted robbery at an earlier hearing.

They used machetes to threaten their victims and fled on mopeds after stealing the watches from two men in upscale areas of the UK capital. One of the victims was left with a hand injury.

They also attempted to steal two other watches in three additional robberies, all on the same day on October 1, 2022, in addresses across the city, including Soho, Westminster and Mayfair.

Msaad and Allen were each sentenced to 40 months in prison at Wood Green Crown Court last Friday. Allen was sentenced to an additional 54 months for a separate offence.

The number of watches stolen in England and Wales almost doubled to 11,035 between 2015 and 2022, according to figures from Watchfinder UK, in a surge that came to be known as the “Rolex Ripper” crime wave.

London is the centre, with a 56 per cent rise in thefts and 6,000 watches stolen in the capital last year alone.

The increase has raised concern among international business executives, who have voiced concerns about visiting even the most high-end parts of London for fear their expensive watches will be stolen.

London’s Met Police have dedicated extra resources to fighting watch crime and this year revealed details of an operation in which undercover officers wearing luxury watches late at night in central London were used as bait to lure robbers before their colleagues moved in to make arrests.

Earlier this year, the jailing of Algerian watch thieves exposed a crime network operating from North Africa to the UK to carry out a wave of lucrative robberies.

Using background details provided by London's Met Police about the Algerian-led gang, court documents and coverage of their trial, as well as speaking to experts, The National was able to piece together how they went about their work and how the booming market in stolen watches drew them to the streets of London.

Operation Venice, a specialist team that clamps down on moped enabled crime, carried out the latest investigation.

In the first incident, an attempted robbery in Audley Street, Mayfair, a man was approached by two men on a moped.

They knocked the victim to the ground and threatened him with a machete in an attempt to steal his watch.

A member of staff from a nearby pub intervened and the two men fled on the moped. The victim, who was not injured, left before police arrived.

They have been unable to trace the man but four others came forward who reported being robbed or being subjected to an attempted robbery. They included two men who had their Rolex watches stolen near Marylebone and Islington.

Officers spent hours trawling through CCTV footage to trace the offenders and follow their route through the streets of London.

The CCTV footage showed the two attackers on a moped using machetes, in addition to punching, kicking and running over their victims during the two-hour crime spree.

They followed the robbers on CCTV until they took off their crash helmets, enabling officers to identify them.

Police also used the footage to locate the moped bike and found DNA from Msaad and Allen on the vehicle.

“These were violent attacks on innocent people in the middle of the street in central London. It was just fortunate that no one was seriously injured during these reckless offences,” said DC Mike Bagnall from Operation Venice.

“The investigation was thorough and detailed and we were able to trace Msaad and Allen and build an overwhelming case against them. These were violent robberies and I am glad our determination to find those responsible enabled us to take both these men off the streets.”

Updated: May 16, 2024, 1:10 PM