Despite getting their hands on an industrial drill, the team managed to get just half a metre through the vault wall of a Berliner Bank branch, before they set off the alarms and were forced to flee empty-handed.
Police arrived at the bank in Gesundbrunnen in the north of the city on Sunday evening to find a 50-centimetre-wide diamond drill bit in the wall, but no clues as to who the culprits were.
The failed attempt brought back memories of a more dramatic Berlin bank raid earlier in the year. Thieves dug a 45-metre tunnel in the Steglitz area of the city, which ended up in the vaults, where they emptied deposit boxes.
Police spokesman Thomas Neuendorf said he saw similarities between the work of the two groups, and that initial investigations suggested the theives had been working on the hole for around a week.
What was clear is that it cannot have been the work of just one person, he said. “We are checking for a connection [with the Steglitz robbery]. But it could also be the work of copycat criminals,” he said.
Chief crime commissioner Michael Adamski, who led the investigation into the Steglitz robbery, said that because the thieves were so close to breaking through on Sunday, when the bank was closed, it was likely they would have left empty-handed even if they had broken through.
When the bank is shut, the deposit boxes are secured with re-enforced steel doors.