Personal trainer admits robbery of Michael Winner’s widow Geraldine, 81

A woman who claims to have been in a relationship with film director Michael Winner has admitted robbing his widow of jewellery, art and cash which prosecutors say was worth up to £280,000.

Geraldine Winner, 81, suffered serious head injuries and a broken finger during the raid on her flat in Knightsbridge, central London, on October 9 2015.

Personal trainer Gurgana Gueorguieva, 48, who lives in a flat in Russell Road, Holland Park, west London, pleaded guilty at Southwark Crown Court on Friday to a single count of robbery.

She claimed that any injuries caused to her victim were accidental and that she stole items to the value of just £50,000 in a basis of plea.

But prosecutors do not accept her version of events and say the robbery was of items worth £280,000.

Obi Mgbokwere said: “That basis of plea is not accepted by the prosecution, particularly when one looks at the injuries sustained by the complainant.”

Gueorguieva faces a so-called Newton hearing on September 26 – during which Mrs Winner is expected to give evidence by video-link – where a judge will rule on the dispute.

Michael and Gerlandine Winner
Michael and Gerlandine Winner

Bulgarian-British Gueorguieva, who has shoulder length blonde hair, appeared in the dock on Friday wearing a black and white patterned top.

Mrs Winner, a former dancer who married Mr Winner in 2011, had been planning to travel to France to see her sons in the morning, but was attacked as she went to take the rubbish out at around 10pm.

Prosecutors say she was beaten with a metal pole before being pushed into the flat during a struggle.

At an earlier hearing prosecutor Manjit Mahal said: “The suspect, we say the defendant, was wearing a wig. That wig had fallen off.

“The suspect grabbed a kettle from a counter and struck Mrs Winner over the head causing multiple head lacerations.

“The defendant pushed Mrs Winner to the floor, sat on her back holding her down, and threatened to stab Mrs Winner.

“The defendant zip-tied her hands and feet, leaving her face down on the kitchen floor while she proceeded to raid the house of valuables.”

Jewellery, cash and art was stolen as Gueorguieva cut paintings from their frames. At the time, police said items stolen included a heart-shaped diamond pendant, cash including euros and a painting of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice by the artist Franz Richard Unterberger.

CCTV footage captured Gueorguieva wearing a red wig as a disguise to carry out the robbery after carrying out reconnaissance at a side entrance to the building days earlier.

She was arrested last month after an estimated £248,000 worth of stolen goods were found in a storage lock-up in Brentford rented by Gueorguieva and all but one item has now been recovered.

Mr Mahal said: “During the police interview the defendant initially denied any knowledge of the robbery, then changed her account and gave a full and frank admission to the offence.”

He said that when asked her motivation she “stated she hated Geraldine Winner and had meticulously planned the robbery for two years”.

“She had apparently been in a relationship with Michael Winner between 1999 and 2002, when it ended, but remained on good terms. She would speak on the phone to him now and then.”

Mr Winner, who made more than 30 films including the blockbuster Death Wish series, died aged 77 at his home in Kensington in January 2013.

During his career, the director reinvented himself as a restaurant critic, writing about food in his typically flamboyant style in his Winner’s Dinners column for the Sunday Times.

In a 2015 BBC Crimewatch appeal, Mrs Winner told how she feared she could “end up dead” during the three-hour raid.

She said she was beaten so hard she “saw stars” but believed she was protected from the full impact of the blows by the curlers in her hair.

Mrs Winner told how the robber asked for a specific heart-shaped piece of jewellery that her late husband had given her and was forced to hand over the number of the safe where it was kept.

“It was a little heart Michael had bought for me. Nearly all of that jewellery, the monetary value was not what counted, what counted was the memory of it, the sentimental – that Michael had bought it for me,” she said.

“My memories with Michael and everything I have done with Michael, nobody can take that away, and that is all really that matters. And Michael would just be turning in his grave.”