Sinatra at the Paris Ritz - the surreal moment when gangsters struck

A general view of the scene after axe-wielding robbers stole jewelry on Wednesday from a store in the famed Ritz Paris hotel in Paris, France, January 10, 2018 in this picture obtained from social media. Courtesy of Davy Parker/via REUTERS

PARIS (Reuters) - It was cocktail hour at the Paris Ritz when the silky tones of Sinatra segued into the sound of breaking glass, one guest said, recalling the surreal moment he saw axe-wielding gangsters nab fistfuls of jewels from the ultra-chic hotel.

Author Frederic Beigbeder was enjoying a Wednesday evening Moscow Mule at the Ernest Hemingway bar when the robbers struck.

"I thought it was a terrorist attack," said the Frenchman, who hid in a toilet room for ten minutes as police arrived.

"I thought we were all going down, to be killed one by one. Shots rang, you could hear Frank Sinatra and Christmas tunes playing in the corridors," he told Le Figaro newspaper.

Police say they have recovered the millions of dollars worth of jewels that were snatched from glass display cases and caught three robbers who got blocked inside the premises.

But two others are on the run after fleeing the scene on the Place Vendome square in central Paris.

"It was pretty surreal, like being in a David Lynch movie," Beigbeder added, referring to the maker of art-house classics such as Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive.

(Reporting By Brian Love; editing by Richard Lough and John Stonestreet)