Lampards and Ecclestone among stars targeted in £26m burglary spree, court told

Alleged burglars who targeted the luxury homes of celebrities including Frank and Christine Lampard made off with a haul worth millions of pounds during a fortnight-long spree, a court has heard.

Three such burglaries, carried out on west London homes in December last year, netted "big money", with "fabulous jewellery and cold, hard cash" later laundered through spending splurges including at upmarket department store Harrods, or by being taken out of the country, Isleworth Crown Court was told.

The pinnacle was a £25 million raid at the Kensington home of Tamara Ecclestone, the daughter of ex-Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone, reckoned to be one of the largest domestic burglaries in UK history.

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Frank and Christine Lampard had their west London home raided in December 2019 (Ian West/PA)

Celebrity couple the Lampards – television presenter Christine and her Chelsea FC manager husband Frank – had around £60,000 in watches and jewellery stolen the previous week, before raiders then ransacked the family home of late former Leicester City FC chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who died in 2018 in a helicopter crash.

The court heard that the alleged burglars toasted the success of the raid on the Thai billionaire's property the following day, enjoying a £760 champagne and sashimi lunch at the Zuma restaurant, just five minutes' walk from the crime scene.

It can now be reported that four people including an alleged Romanian escort and her son are currently on trial on suspicion of their involvement in the raids.

They are accused of being members of the "supporting cast" to the alleged burglars, rather than carrying out the raids themselves, by arranging transport, accommodation and other assistance before helping launder the proceeds.

Global Gift Gala 2017 - London
Jay Rutland and Tamara Ecclestone had £25m worth of property stolen from their Kensington home last year (Isabel Infantes/PA)

Opening the case, prosecutor Timothy Cray QC said: "We say that the four defendants were part of the support team.

"Every star needs a supporting cast and we allege that this is how these defendants stand (to the alleged burglars)."

The alleged burglars cannot be named for legal reasons.

The prosecutor said: "The three burglaries netted big money – in round figures some £26 million worth of property was stolen, that was mainly in some fabulous jewellery and in cold, hard cash.

"Virtually all that property, despite the best efforts of the police, has never been seen again. It has been successfully laundered – concealed and disguised, got rid of."

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Leicester City football club chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha died in a helicopter crash in 2018 (Adam Davy/PA)

The court heard that two of the alleged burglars rang the doorbell of the Lampards' home on December 1 to check they were away before sneaking in around the back and stealing £60,000 worth of property including a £36,000 Patek Philippe Nautilus rose gold ladies' watch.

On December 10, thieves targeted a second home, belonging to Mr Srivaddhanaprabha, getting away with more than £1 million in property, including expensive Patek Philippe watches, and around 400,000 euros (£360,000) in cash.

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The final burglary, on the palatial home near Kensington Palace that socialite Ms Ecclestone shares with her husband Jay Rutland, took place on December 13. The court heard three of the alleged burglars got in around the back while another kept lookout.

Mr Cray said Ms Ecclestone's team of security guards missed the men coming on to the property, adding: "The house is just so big that the guys didn't realise the burglary was going on until it was well under way."

They made off with £25 million in property.

Alleged suspects in the conspiracy were seen in luxury department store Harrods with 'wads of cash' (Kirsty O'Connor/PA)

The prosecution allege that Alexandru Stan, 49, Maria Mester, 47, Sorin Marcovici, 53, and Emil Bogdan Savastru, 30, were all involved, at various times, in the conspiracy to burgle the three homes.

Stan is alleged to have dropped out after the Lampard raid to be replaced with Mester and Marcovici, the latter then being substituted with Mester's son Savastru for the Ecclestone job.

Mr Cray said: "They were there in their different ways to help with matters such as accommodation, transport, communication – fitting round the burglars before, during and after the break-ins."

Mr Cray said the plot "looked to have worked" until police arrested Savastru at Heathrow Airport on January 30, when he was in possession of a Tag watch stolen from the second burglary, and a Louis Vuitton bag identical to one taken in the third raid.

Savastru was likened by the prosecutor to the Harry Enfield character "Loadsamoney" when he and an alleged burglar attempted to spend £8,985 in cash on Louis Vuitton clothing.

His mother – described by her lawyer in court as a "call girl" who was paid thousands of euros for a week's work in London – was also seen in Harrods "flashing wads of cash" as she bought luxury goods, the court heard.

All four defendants in this trial are charged with conspiracy to burgle the three homes, as well as individual conspiracy counts.

They all deny criminal involvement.

Likening the conspiracy and its alleged participants to rotating performers in a travelling circus, Mr Cray told jurors: "It can start in one town, and Coco the Clown can develop alcohol problems, so at the next town he's replaced with a man in a ginger wig and a big nose and big shoes.

"In the next town the plate spinner can run off with the glamourous trapeze artist.

"People are still saying 'Roll up, roll up' – there's still a circus even though people are dropping out."

The trial is expected to last for up to six weeks.

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