(CANNES, France) — The Cannes, France, hotel that served as the setting for one of the most famous jewel heist movies of all time was the scene of a brazen armed robbery Sunday, when a gunman made off with an estimated $53 million in jewels and diamonds from a gem exhibition.
It was the third such heist in the French Riviera resort in as many months.
The gunman walked into the luxury Carlton hotel in broad daylight and headed for “La Cote,” a room housing a temporary exhibit of jewelry by the prestigious Leviev diamond house, owned by the London-based Russian Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev that had been due to run until the end of August.
“The thief in his mid-40s entered the room of the exhibition, pulled a Colt .45 out at the employees, stuffed a bag with gems and walked out of the hotel,” Cannes police told ABC News. “We do not know yet if the thief had accomplices, but we are investigating everything. It’s a full scale investigation.”
The Carlton hotel dominates the exclusive Promenade de la Croisette that stretches a mile and a half along the French Riviera.
It was a movie set hotel for To Catch a Thief, the 1955 Alfred Hitchcock romantic thriller starring Cary Grant as a former jewel thief and Grace Kelly as an American heiress on holiday in the Riviera with her mother.
The Carlton hotel is also where Kelly met her future husband, Prince Rainier of Monaco, for the first time — at the prince’s request — during the Cannes Film Festival.
Cannes is a popular target for a group of international jewel thieves known as the Pink Panthers, after the popular comedy crime films starring Peter Sellers as the bumbling Inspector Clouseau.
The Carlton itself was already a scene of one of the biggest diamond robberies, in August 1994, when a group of thieves firing machineguns burst into the hotel’s jewelry store and made off with some $60 million in diamonds.
The latest robbery comes just over two months after a safe containing more than $1 million of jewelry designed by the exclusive Swiss-based jeweler and watchmaker Chopard was taken from a Novotel hotel room during the city’s film festival in May.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Susan Scutti, CNN
Lorenzo Ferrigno, CNN
Andreas Preuss, CNN