Many think a heist needs the action of Ocean’s 8 or even The Italian Job. While those plots make good movies, they do not reflect real life. It’s hard to believe Sandra Bullock doesn’t lead a highly trained team of thieves. Maybe that’s her secret life.
Jessie Woolworth, heiress to the Woolworth fortune, also did not lead a pack of thieves. However, she did have to grapple with them as they stole jewelry out her room at The Plaza. While she was enjoying a nice, hot bath in the next room.
In and Out
The thief, who was never caught, is believed to have been a man. He found the door to Woolworth’s suite at The Plaza unlocked. After allowing himself in, he simply took the jewels he wanted and vanished into the New York City air. Along with him went two pearl necklaces and a ring. One of the necklaces was worth $450,000!
This was done with Woolworth in the aforementioned bath. A maid in one room, and a masseuse in another. Either the thief was as quiet as a mouse or some people were being willfully obtuse about the noises they heard. There have been some whispers that it could have been an insurance scam. However, that seems unlikely given Woolworth inherited more than $20 million from her father.
One of the reasons these whispers still circulate is because the pearls had just arrived from Paris. Another reason was that there were no clues left behind. Sure, this was 1925 and technology taken for granted today had not yet been invented.
The mystery stumped the NYPD. How could no one have heard or seen anything in the hotel. There were always people around, yet no witnesses came forward. What the investigators failed to realize is that there was always someone around and in NYC (then and now) no one sees anything. Ever.
With nothing more to go on, Police focused their attention on an international jewel thief. Their reasoning seemed to be that since the pearls came from Paris, the thief must have also come from there. The New York Times covered this as a very serious theory investigators were pursuing and not the Tom and Jerry/Nancy Drew crossover that it sounds like.
Investigators were so convinced of this theory, they set up a watch in Europe. Apparently, they thought this careful thief was going to slip up and show off the pearls to someone once back across the pond.
Though the jewels were never found or returned, the incident has largely died among the bigger stories that NYC and The Plaza have to offer. And that’s the real crime here.