Footage of jewelry store robbery shows male suspects wearing burkas
Toronto police released security camera footage on Wednesday of two male suspects who appear to be wearing burkas during a $500,000 jewelry store heist in North York.
The robbery happened at Mona-Clara Jewellers in the York Mills Road and Leslie Street area on Tuesday, Oct. 14 at about 11 a.m., police said.
Staff Insp. Mike Earl of the Toronto Police Holdup Squad revealed security footage of the disguised suspects on Wednesday at a news conference. He said the two suspects appeared to be wearing burkas during the robbery.
"This is the first jewelry store robbery that I've seen where they're dressed up in burkas," Earl said. "Identification is very difficult, and that's why we definitely need the public's assistance to point us in the right direction."
The footage released by police shows two figures shrouded in black entering the jewelry store with what appear to be handbags on their arms. One shrouded figure leads a female employee to the front door and closes it. Another figure is shown brandishing what looks like a handgun while emptying the contents of a display case into a bag.
The robbery lasted about five minutes, Earl said.
Earl says other security camera footage obtained by police shows the two suspects approaching the store from outside, then leaving through a back door. They are wearing the burkas at all times.
"We believe that a getaway car probably went around the back and waited for these individuals to leave," Earl said.
The two suspects are believed to be male based on their voices, Earl said. The man holding what appears to be a handgun is described as a five-foot-eleven black male wearing a black burka with "shiny items" on the sleeves.
Earl said the sleeves indicate the burka may have been handmade, in which case someone might recognize the handiwork.
"If it was handmade, it might point us in the direction of a store that sells these items," he said.
The suspect was also wearing black gloves and black men's boots, police said.
The second suspect is described as a six-foot-three man of indeterminate skin colour, wearing a black burka with black boots.
Police are appealing to the entire community for help in the case.
"This is the best video we have," Earl said. "This is what we're hoping will jog the public's memory."
About $500,000 worth of rings and other jewelry items were taken in the robbery, Earl said.
"Somebody getting their hands on this amount of jewelry at one time, there's going to be a market out there to make money," he said.
Police are asking second-hand retailers to be on the alert for individuals attempting to sell large amounts of jewelry at one time.
There is no evidence at this time to link this robbery to another armed jewelry store holdup in August, Earl said. The two suspects in that case wore masks and used a shotgun.
Earl said retailers should be on "high alert" at this time of year if they see individuals wearing burkas come in. He added that burkas are not as conspicuous as ski masks for would-be robbers, making it much easier for them to blend in with a crowd.
Police are asking witnesses or anyone with information to contact investigators at 416-808-7350, or Crime Stoppers anonymously at 416-222-8477.