Logo: American Artist Chloe Dee Noble

News Articles - 1992

Wrightwood woman held hostage in London store

By: Kay Denny

The shop was only open for another 15 minutes, so Chloe Dee Noble decided to drop in quickly before she headed back to her hotel in downtown London.

What she stepped into was an hour and a half of sheer terror.

Dee was an unwilling hostage during a heist which netted $2.25 million worth of jewelry.

Dee has been a resident of Wrightwood for the past four years. She went to London in late March to attend an art show in which her paintings were being shown.

After entering one of her favorite shops, Laura Ashley, to take a fast peek, Dee was on the first level when she heard a commotion on the second level. She saw a group of 10 to 12 women coming toward her.

"They were as pale as sheets", Dee recalled. She and the other women were then taken to the basement while the men were held on an upper level with guns held to their heads.

None of them knew at the time what was happening. It turned out the Laura Ashley shop shared a wall with a jewelry store which was the target of a well-planned and well-executed robbery.

For weeks construction workers had been working inside Laura Ashley, so the shop clerks apparently didn't think it was unusual that a work crew came in that Saturday.

The work crew was in reality an organized team of robbers who spent all day working on the wall which adjoined the jewelry store. They were preparing the wall to by dynamited.

For some unknown reason it became necessary for the robbers to take the shoppers and clerks hostage while they dynamited the wall between the two shops.

When the wall was blown away Dee recalled, "I thought it was the IRA and I thought it was a bomb. I thought we'd be blown up. The IRA had just bombed Harrod's a month earlier."

The group of women down in the basement were all foreigners according to Dee. "Everyone was handling it differently. An Asian woman was crying, so I went and put my arms around her," she said.

Dee then went around the room and talked with the others in the room to calm them down. "I felt I needed to go around to offer peace. Because of the different cultures and nationalities. . . it was like a rainbow of people, I felt I had to be calm for everybody," she added.

When the wall blew, a burgler alarm went off and Scotland Yard arrived, however, the robbers got away in a stolen van. The London daily newspaper, The Times, dubbed the group "The Hole in the Wall Gang."

Dee said she returned to her hotel after the crisis. Her son who had accompanied her on the trip, stayed with her that evening and all the next day. "He was real sweet," she said. 

She said now that it is all over and has time to think about it, she is much less calm. "I am really shocked I got through it as calmly as I did. I just felt my angels were there with me," she stated.

She has been to London many times and in fact studied at the Royal College of Art. Dee will return there in May for a reception in her honor at the art gallery which will be attended by Prince Charles.

And she does plan to drop back in at her favorite shop, Laura Ashley. This time to see how the clerks are coping with the hour and a half of terror none of them are likely ever to forget.

- - Article written by Kay Denny

- - WRIGHTWOOD ARTIST CHLOE DEE NOBLE and her cat Miss Sydney. Photographed in Noble's garden by Kay Denny

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