Gunfire as millions in gems stolen in raid on Paris Ritz hotel

Alix Culbertson, News Reporter

Armed robbers have raided the Ritz Hotel in Paris and stolen jewellery thought to be worth millions of pounds.

The axe-wielding thieves made off with the jewels after smashing glass display cases at the world-famous hotel in the French capital, police said.

Items worth "several million euros" were taken, a police source added, with robbers appearing to enter the hotel's Reza Gallery through a side entrance.

The jewels are believed to be worth €4.7m (£4.16m).

Three suspects have been detained and at least two others are on the run, the source said.

A witness told Sky News they heard "at least 10 rounds of gunfire".

Nik said: "My parents and I were sitting at the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz for a drink and we were about to leave when we heard shouting from the bartenders to get down.

"One man wearing a ski mask ran right from the bar door to the front, right past my father.

"He had an axe in his hand. Immediately the bartender closed and locked the door and corralled everyone to the back kitchen area of the bar.

"We heard at least 10 rounds of gunfire so everyone dove behind the bar where we stayed there for about six minutes.

"We heard shouting and screaming from right outside the door."

The award-winning French writer, Frederic Beigbeder, was also in the Hemingway Bar and said the place was very calm, according to Le Figaro.

He is believed to have hidden in the basement.

The robbers arrived at the hotel at about 6.30pm (5.30pm UK time) before smashing the windows and making off with the jewellery.

"World-famous jewellers display their jewellery at the Ritz," a police source said.

Place Vendome, where the Ritz is based, is also home to the Ministry of Justice.

Security in the area was increased in 2014 after several luxury jewellers were raided in violent robberies.

The Ritz has played host to scores of famous people since it opened in 1898.

Coco Chanel lived there for more than 30 years while Marcel Proust, F Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway and King Edward VII were regulars.

The Luftwaffe set up their regional headquarters at the Ritz during the Second World War.

Mohammed al Fayed bought the hotel in 1979 and carried out major renovations to bring it back to its original popularity.

Princess Diana famously dined at the hotel with Dodi al Fayed before they both died in a tragic car accident in the Pont de l'Alma underpass.