Skeleton crew: thieves bore into cellar via Paris catacombs to steal €250,000 of precious wine

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 2:00pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 August, 2017, 7:56pm

Thieves stole wine reportedly worth more than 250,000 Euros (US$297,000) after burrowing into a private cellar from the catacombs 20 metres below Paris.

Police say more than 300 bottles of vintage wine were carried out through the underground network, which comprises more than 250km of tunnels running beneath the city.

The raid on the cellar of an apartment in the chic 6th arrondissement, near the Luxembourg Gardens, happened in the night some time between Monday and Tuesday.

Detectives say the gang must have identified the cellar they wanted to access under the apartment building and then drilled into it from the catacombs, where the walls are mostly limestone. They made off with valuable grand cru wines.

“We believe they must have made visits before; the suspects didn’t drill that particular wall by accident,” a police spokesman told French media.

Paris’s catacombs are off-limits to the public at night and only a little over 2km of tunnels can only be visited during the day with a guide. Authorities have long turned a blind eye to groups of cataphiles, as they are known, who have identified secret entrances – mostly former sewer holes – and risk fines to sneak in for parties, secret meetings and even film screenings.

Many of the tunnels have their corresponding above-ground street names etched into the walls to help visitors find their way around.

The catacombs were adapted from abandoned underground quarries dating back more than 500 years. Within them are galleries containing the bones of about 6 million Parisians, moved there between the end of the 18th century and the middle of the 19th from several of the capital’s cemeteries.

Those taking part in group visits are strictly forbidden from straying from the main path, but some do. In June, two teenage boys had to be rescued by the fire brigade after becoming lost underground for three days.