Just as in real estate, in crime location is everything. And plenty of criminals choose hotels as the scenes of their felonious fun. Take Darius Guppy, for example. A gem merchant so well-bred and connected that if he were food, he would be Ossetra caviar, Guppy checked into Room 1208 of New York’s Halloran House Hotel with partner in crime Benedict Marsh and 1.8 million GBP worth of gems. Immediately, they went around to gem dealers like Tiffany’s, offering the stones for sale at vastly inflated prices. Which meant, of course, no-one was interested in buying them. This was vital as they wanted to be able to show that they had, in fact, engaged in the activity they had supposedly come to New York to undertake—the sale of precious gems.
Once that part of the scheme was complete, they holed up in Halloran House and slurped champagne until their paid accomplice appeared, as arranged, with a gun. The two were roughed up, tied up, then the firearm was discharged into a mattress to give the effect of an even more terrifying ordeal for the two “victims”.
Once the “crook” made off with the gems (which were actually stashed in a safety deposit box waiting until the police had completed their investigation), the two lads returned to England. Lloyds of London paid out the insurance money. The pair, obviously roughing it, flew the Concorde back to New York, retrieved the gems, then popped back to London. There, aided by false invoices, they tried to “launder” the gems by moving them between the firm in London and one in Geneva. They would have gotten away with all of it, too, had someone not turned them in. (Thus the old saying: three can keep a secret so long as two of them are dead.)
Even the high-end Cannes film festival (which each year brings together the rich and powerful of the industry) attracts naughty hotel guests, intent on filling their pockets with goodies. A top film publicist was robbed a few years ago whilst she slept in her room. You would have thought she’d used up her share of bad luck, but alas, it happened again. This time, she actually fought with the thief until she came to her senses, realizing that she was defending with her life stuff that could be replaced.
After that trauma, Graham King (Oscar-winning producer of The Departed ) found her a room at the Carlton with the safety of beefed up security. He understood her plight as, at a previous festival, he had interrupted burglars helping themselves to his valuables at his villa at the Hotel du Cap. They fled only after they had pepper sprayed him and grabbed a purse from his companion.
There is a widely held belief that you are only really safe in Cannes between Rue d’Antibes and the Croisette, after which you take your chances, but I beg to differ. My visit to Cannes saw me reside in the “danger zone” untouched. I was the subject of a hilarious documentary called In the Cannes about pitching film ideas to top producers who did, indeed, meet with me and my colleague and listen to our proposals. They said they would get back to us. That was 1994 and I am still waiting for the call. Caravan les Mimosas (caravan is trailer park to you Yanks) probably just wasn’t a cool enough address for either the moguls or the bad boys to come calling.
Dirk Robertson is a Scots thriller writer, currently in Virginia where he is promoting literacy and art projects for young gang members. When not writing, tweeting, or blogging on the Mystery Writers of America website, he designs and knits clothes and handbags from recycled rubbish.