Last Sunday, attendees at The Meadows Festival found their mellows severely harshened when headliner Kanye West prematurely rushed offstage, citing a “family emergency.” Yeezy’s disappearing act, and the predictable Twitter backlash and fan whines that followed, turned out to be just the beginning of one of the biggest and most mysterious celebrity stories of 2016. Even more intriguingly, the terrifying tale of the Kim Kardashian jewelry heist is still breaking.
Here’s what we know so far. On Sunday night, Kim Kardashian West was unwinding from the Paris fashion week shows at her penthouse suite in the Hôtel de Pourtalès. A group of five men dressed as police officers entered the luxury mansion, forced the concierge to let them into Kardashian’s room, and proceeded to rob the reality-TV star at gunpoint. The jewel thieves tied her up, gagged her, and pushed her into the bathtub, before raiding the room for $9 million in statement jewels. The main focus of the heist appears to have been Kim’s $4 million diamond engagement ring, which she’d featured heavily on her social-media accounts in the days leading up to the attack. As the thieves biked away from the scene, Kardashian’s bodyguard, Pascal Duvier, rushed back from a nightclub where he had been working security for sisters Kourtney Kardashian and Kendall Jenner. Kim has maintained an uncharacteristic silence on social media in the wake of the 8th arrondissement incident—her spokeswoman said Mrs. West was “badly shaken but physically unharmed.”
As the close-knit Kardashian clan remains respectfully mum, various media outlets, conspiracy theorists, and tweeters have rushed to fill the silence with a cacophony of conspiracies and commentaries. Responses to the crime have ranged from respectful concern to outright condemnation. Fashion vampire Karl Lagerfeld, an acquaintance of the Keeping Up With the Kardashians star, told the Associated Press that Kim was at least partially to blame—the literal definition of victim-blaming. “[She is] too public, too public—we have to see in what time we live. You cannot display your wealth then be surprised that some people want to share it,” Lagerfeld opined after the Chanel show. “I don’t understand why [Kardashian] was in a hotel with no security and things like this. If you are that famous and you put all your jewelry on the net, you go to hotels where nobody can come near to the room,” he added.
While Lagerfeld’s heart is undoubtedly in the right place—honestly, how woke of a sound bite can you expect from a man who refers to Snapchat as “the net”—he’s only the chicest in a long line of Kim K critics. In the immediate aftermath of the heist, Paris fashion week attendees reportedly expressed skepticism, arguing the attack may have been entirely fictitious. “Where did they get a gun? Sounds fake,” was the first reaction of one British journalist. Later, an American fashion editor snarkily joked that, “She was probably drunk after the L’Oréal party and let them in accidentally.” Perhaps remembering that Kim isn’t a drinker—that’s, like, Kim Kardashian 101—she amended, “Or she tagged herself there. Criminals can have Instagram, too.”
This brand of bitchy banter perfectly fits the stereotype of the starved-for-attention—and just plain starved—fashion femme. It’s very The Devil Wears Prada, minus all that icky idealism and empathy. Still, fashion world smack talk seems better suited to taking down fashion bloggers and street-style stars than casting aspersions on actual crimes.
Unfortunately, snide remarks about Kim’s social-media presence only seem to be spreading.
Bargain-basement talking head Piers Morgan wrote an opinion piece Wednesday, just days after the attack, calling the robbery a “wake-up call”: “Time to decide if you want to be the smart, warm woman you really are or the trash-talking monster you were becoming.” Morgan’s basic argument appears to be that Kim experienced a karmic comeuppance. In addition to implying that the attack was somehow deserved, Morgan rebrands the heist as an opportunity for Kim to stop being so gosh darned vulgar.
Linking Kardashian’s unfortunate twist of fate to her penchant for social-media nudity, well-timed internet clap backs, and/or public displays of affluence might seem like inadvisable logical gymnastics, especially for a man of Piers Morgan’s age. Unfortunately, Kardashian’s nuanced reputation, which really has nothing to do with the crime at hand, appears to be playing an overactive role in the court of public opinion.
Kim Kardashian—the person—is many things: a wife, a mother, a sister, a daughter, a businesswoman, and a Silicon Valley sorceress. But Kim Kardashian’s real-life influence is rivaled only by her symbolic significance. The reality-TV star has, for many, become a poster child for societal decay—a “talentless” sex-tape star turned self-obsessed celebrity. Every woman in the public eye walks a series of tightropes, but no one treads a thinner line than Kim Kardashian. Her attempts at celebrating her body are often maligned as obscene or offensive. Her abilities as a mother are often questioned, her body is constantly policed and criticized, and despite years in the limelight, her legitimacy as a celebrity is still heavily debated. When critics make vague illusions to karma, make no mistake: They’re not just talking about Kardashian’s choice of hotel or social-media indiscretion. They’re relishing in the public humbling of an unabashed woman.
Kim Kardashian is the rare polarizing celebrity whose haters seem to only make her stronger. In fact, Kardashian’s detractors are a crucial component of her publicity machine. As internet opiners and social-media commenters take turns tearing Mrs. West down, clicks climax and views skyrocket. Because of Kim’s unique position in the public imagination, her attackers’ painstaking crime has quickly transformed into the perfect story. Whether you’re rooting for Kim or following her ups and downs with a heavy dose of schadenfreude, you’ve likely been pulled into the whodunnit of the year.
Initially, conspiracy theorists flocked to the notion that the thieves must have had an accomplice on the inside. According to Steve Stanulis, Kim Kardashian’s former bodyguard, the heist was “100 percent an inside job. They went to an exclusive place, with exclusive entrances, they knew exactly where to go, where to find the jewelry,” he said. “Security was out with the sisters and Kim had been showing all the jewelry on Snapchat. It’s a perfect storm to get robbed.’”
The brunt of public suspicion immediately fell on Kardashian’s current bodyguard, Pascal Duvier, who was quickly blamed as the man who had left Kim alone in the first place. While Duvier was too late to protect Kim or catch her attackers, sources close to Kardashian claim that she in no way holds him responsible for the crime. Duvier left Paris on Kardashian’s private jet, and has been keeping a low profile ever since. On social media, the #BiggestBodyguardEver has made a habit of doling out security tips and not-so-humble brags. As recently as Oct. 2, the large German tweeted, “You don’t become a bodyguard over night. It’s a job with dedication, responsibility and passion.”
Unfortunately, it seems that Duvier’s commitment to his work has led him to forego his financial responsibilities. One result of the post-heist limelight has been the big reveal that Kardashian’s bodyguard filed for bankruptcy protection 10 weeks ago, with his German security company claiming some Pascal Duvier-sized debts. The reported €1,093,518 debt even has the case’s lawyer at a loss. In a brief statement, he told The Daily Mail, “There is so much debt. There are many claimants. I cannot say the exact number. Lots.”
Similarly, the concierge of Kim’s hotel on the night in question is experiencing his own ill-begotten 15 minutes of fame. A TMZ report describes the unnamed employee as a “critical witness.” In an extensive interview between Kim and the cops, which allegedly occurred Tuesday, Kim disclosed that the concierge watched the entire crime unfold. After bringing the thieves to her door, the handcuffed concierge “was in there the whole time,” apparently maintaining an unusually calm demeanor throughout the heist.
But the most convincing theory has the added bonus of being the most dramatic. According to Palve “Punch” Stanimirovic, a former member of the Serbian robbery collective known as the Pink Panthers, it’s clear that the fascinating “gentleman robbers” have clearly executed another heist. Stanimirovic told The Daily Beast, “This was a preplanned inside job and they pulled it off.” Citing an extended network of Croatian and Serbian service-industry workers—waiters, door men, and cleaning people—he noted, “It’s so easy to pick up a phone and say, ‘Hey, Kim Kardashian is here in room so and so.’”
The jewelry theft was certainly in keeping with the Pink Panthers’s traditional methods. The robbery collective boasts an impressive résumé of deliberate, well-coordinated, nonviolent strikes. These audacious robbers have targeted some of the most valuable gems on the planet, raking in around $372 million in gems from about 280 international heists since 1999. The Pink Panthers have cemented their inarguable status as criminal kingpins through glamorous, blockbuster movie-esque heists.
In 2013, a single thief walked into a Cannes exhibition entitled Extraordinary Diamonds only to walk out a minute later with $138 million in precious stones. Due to their polished style, the Pink Panthers have often left police stumped. Earlier this year, Interpol ended its nine-year investigation of the Pink Panthers. And while certain key figures have been arrested, the collective has, if the rumors are true, once again proven itself stronger than the sum of its parts.
Between Kim Kardashian’s stratospheric star power and the timeless appeal of an old-fashioned mystery, this Parisian jewel heist is a story with staying power. We’ve become obsessed with weighing possible scenarios and pasting together clues, searching for narrative cohesion in the face of media chaos. After all, from KUWTK to Kim’s Snapchat and Instagram accounts, we’re used to having a backstage pass to all things Kim Kardashian West. Critics and fans alike have seen Kim and her sisters solve countless mysteries and overcome innumerable obstacles, season after season. We’ve watched Kim feign surprise, register shock, and occasionally sob. We’ve even followed eerily prescient storylines, such as when Kylie Jenner’s older sisters attempted to teach her a lesson about sharing her location with potential stalkers via social media. The difference, of course, is that every episode of KUWTK is tied up in a neat bow. No matter how manufactured the conclusions may be, we’ve still come to rely on easy answers from this made-for-TV family. But with our emotionally frazzled heroine taking a rare sabbatical from the public eye, and her attackers continuing to evade apprehension, we’ve journeyed far outside of typical Kardashian convention.
While couch-dwellers will doubtlessly continue moonlighting as amateur detectives, they shouldn’t expect a happy ending.