Brilliant physics graduate who helped pull off £13.5m Hatton robbery

Michael Seed, the last of the Hatton Garden heist gang to be jailed , is the son of a DNA pioneer who inherited his father’s brilliant mind, but used his talents to further a career in crime, instead of science.

Seed, 58, known as “Basil the Ghost”, was yesterday sentenced to 10 years for the £13.5million burglary in 2015 and eight for conspiring to hide the proceeds, the sentences to run concurrently.

We can reveal the alarm specialist was a stealthy operator who lived “off-grid” for 30 years. He paid no tax, never claimed benefits, had no car or mobile phone and never used a bank or credit card, paying only in cash.

He lived frugally, dressed in an old jacket and Dr. Martens boots bought from Camden market, and walked miles around London from his home in Islington, favouring canal paths which were barely covered by CCTV.

His first jail time was in 1984, when he was sentenced to three years for dealing in LSD. At his trial it was revealed that, just like Walter White, the Breaking Bad character, he had also been manufacturing the drug in his own lab.

Sources say in jail Seed was taken under the wing of members of a crime family who were close to Ronnie and Reggie Kray, and had been jailed for offences including manslaughter and armed robbery. It was those connections that led to Seed eventually becoming part of the Hatton Garden gang.

Now Seed is back in jail. The jury deliberated for more than a week and returned a majority verdict of 10-2 on conspiracy to burgle. He was unanimously convicted of laundering.

He was one of two raiders who climbed into the vault to loot 73 safe deposit boxes after the ageing criminals had bored through the thick concrete using a diamond-tipped drill.

Seed was cleared of conspiracy to burgle the high-end Chatila jewellery store in Bond Street over the August bank holiday weekend in 2010 with members of the same gang.

His life could have been so different if he had chosen to follow his father into a career in science.

Dr John Seed was a brilliant biophysicist who had helped to pioneer the science of DNA, working with Nobel Prize-winning scientists Francis Crick and James Watson in Cambridge in the 1960s.

Dr Seed died of a brain tumour in 1972, aged 44, when his second child Michael was 12.

Professor James Cleaver, a former colleague of Dr Seed, said the biophysicist published several papers on DNA in the 1960s, and had amassed detail about cells “long before genes and DNA sequencing became available”.

The pioneer’s son was charged with the Chatila raid after traces of his DNA were allegedly found on a glove at the scene.

Prof Cleaver said of Dr Seed: “He was a very clever scientist and did wonders with the limited techniques then available. But not very sociable.”

Son Michael, too, was a highly intelligent loner. He made parts for submarine detectors before graduating in physics and electronics from Nottingham University, where he built his first computer. He later used his electronics skills to customise electronic surveillance gadgets and disable alarm systems.

After university, Seed moved back to Cambridge, where he became part of the post-1960s counter-culture scene, manufacturing and taking LSD.

Seed got three years’ jail in 1984 for dealing, but the court heard he had also made the drugs.

Seed told his trial he was not a “Filofax man”, adding: “I don’t pay tax, I don’t claim benefits.”

Seed made connections with London’s criminal gangs in Wormwood Scrubs and Blundeston prisons. An underworld source said Seed was given his Basil nickname while in jail.

The source said: “When he was in shovel he became friends with a couple of London criminals from well-known families.

“Baz talked about being one of the boys and having a ‘Joe’, a prisoner who cleaned his cell.” On release, Seed moved from Cambridge to Islington, North London, then the epicentre of London’s crime world.

He led a double life, spending weekends gardening for his elderly mother at his old home and weekdays plotting heists with Brian Reader.

Reader was part of the Hatton Garden gang, and was jailed three years ago with Terry Perkins, 67, Daniel Jones, 61, and John Collins, 75.

One Last Job, a biography of Reader, 80, reveals how he met Seed in the 1990s and realised the “alarm man” and computer expert was what he needed in the modern age.

With his middle-class upbringing, university education and frugal lifestyle, Seed made an unlikely gang member. But the source said: “He is a problem solver. Brian recognised his ability and brought him on board.”

Money was not Seed’s main motivation. The source said every day he wore the same jacket and Dr Martens.

He added: “Of course he wanted the money from the jobs, but he enjoyed the thrill of going into places at night. He didn’t even own his flat.”

To get their man, detectives watched Seed for two-and-a-half years. They regularly tailed him walking to his brother’s house in East London, through Stratford to Canary Wharf, where he was filmed by police in April 2016.

Single and childless, Seed went to Cornwall with his mother and brother twice a year for family holidays.

In March 2018, he was finally arrested after the Flying Squad raided his one-bedroom flat and found £140,000 worth of Hatton Garden jewellery and gold ingots.

Passing sentence at Woolwich crown court, Judge Christopher Kinch QC told him: “Your role was a central one. You were at the heart of the core activities that had to be carried out.

“You were not just there to fetch and carry. This must rank among the worst offences of its type.”

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