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How Tamara Ecclestone and Frank Lampard ‘fell prey to gang of crooks who flew in to stage raids’

An international gang flew into the UK to carry out a burglary spree on the homes of the rich and famous including Formula 1 heiress Tamara Ecclestone, a court heard.

The alleged thieves stole £26million in jewellery and cash in the 13-day blitz which also targeted footballer Frank Lampard and the billionaire owner of Leicester City.

The team of eight are said to have blown some of the cash on luxury goods and champagne in the shadow of their victims’ homes in west London before fleeing Britain.

The jury in the trial of a mother, son and two others accused of aiding the Italy-based gang heard how they hit the jackpot in the raid on the 55-room mansion where Miss Ecclestone and husband Jay Rutland live.

They netted a £25million haul after breaking in unnoticed – with one security guard having popped out to Tesco – through the back garden of the home in Kensington’s ‘Billionaires’ Row’.

The burglar alarms were turned off – leading Miss Ecclestone, who was away with her family at the time, to believe she had fallen victim to an ‘inside job’.

The alleged thieves stole £26million in jewellery and cash in the 13-day blitz which also targeted footballer Frank Lampard and the billionaire owner of Leicester City

An international gang flew into the UK to carry out a burglary spree on the homes of the rich and famous including Formula 1 heiress Tamara Ecclestone (pictured left), a court heard. The alleged thieves stole £26million in jewellery and cash in the 13-day blitz which also targeted footballer Frank Lampard (pictured right) and the billionaire owner of Leicester City

It is alleged that the gang, who had ‘money to burn’, went on shopping expeditions to Harrods and toasted one raid with a champagne lunch.

These sprees were just a ‘stone’s throw’ from the homes of their victims, the Ecclestones, Chelsea manager Lampard and his TV presenter wife Christine, and the late Leicester City chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.

Prosecutor Timothy Cray QC said: ‘The plan, quite simply, was to steal as much as possible from some fantastic houses in this city of London.

‘The burglaries netted big money – in round figures £26million… mainly in some fabulous jewellery and cold hard cash.’

Isleworth Crown Court heard that the four defendants stand accused of being the alleged burglars’ London-based ‘support team’, helping them in their plot from a hotel in Orpington.

The group worked on setting up boltholes and buying disposable mobile phones for the alleged burglars as they flew in from Italy.

The gang scaled the walls of the Lampard and Ecclestone homes and breached Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s safe with a hammer.

Mr Cray said: ‘They hit these three houses in just 13 days – between December 1 and December 13 last year – and by December 18 most of the people involved had left the country, almost certainly, we suggest, with the proceeds of the crimes.’

Romanian housemaid Maria Mester, 47, her son Emile-Bogdan Savastru, 30, and Italians Sorin Marcovici, 53, and Alexandru Stan, 49, deny involvement in the string of burglaries.

Romanian housemaid Maria Mester, 47, denies any involvement in the string of burglaries

Sorin Marcovici, of Romford - A security worker and bar worker accused of involvement in the £50m jewellery and cash raid on heiress Tamara Ecclestone's home. He denies involvement in a string of burglaries

Romanian housemaid Maria Mester, 47, her son Emile-Bogdan Savastru, 30, and Italians Sorin Marcovici, 53, and Alexandru Stan, 49, deny involvement in the string of burglaries.

The court heard how the Lampards’ Chelsea home was the first target on December 1 last year, with the alleged burglars first ringing the doorbell to check nobody was home.

They made off with valuables worth £60,000, including Mrs Lampard’s £36,000 diamond-studded watch.

Stan is accused of offering his home as ‘a place to clean up’ after one of the alleged burglars cut his hand while fleeing – which he denies.

Ten days later the alleged burglars forced entry through the patio window of Thai billionaire Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s Knightsbridge home, more than a year after he was killed in a helicopter crash at Leicester City’s King Power Stadium.

They ‘brutally’ tried to force his safes with hammers, finally breaking into one.

A stolen Patek Philippe watch, part of the £1million haul, was recovered from Savastru when he was arrested, the court heard.

The day after the raid five of the crew went for a meal a Knightsbridge restaurant, and ran up a £760.15 bill after drinking Ruinart champagne.

The gang are said to have made the bulk of their haul from the Ecclestone home near Kensington Palace on the evening of December 13.

They scaled the back wall of the £70million property, evaded security staff and got into Miss Ecclestone’s heavily fortified jewellery cabinet.

Leonard Smith QC, defending Mester, said the burglary was ‘one of the largest ever in this country’ and suggested the security alarm had been ‘conveniently deactivated’.

He added: ‘Tamara herself straight away thought, “This is an inside job, there’s no way someone could get in unless someone helped”.’

But Mr Cray insisted the alleged burglars had sneaked past a ‘fantastic’ CCTV and security staff – including the guard who had ‘popped out to Tesco’ – who were horrified to discover the raid in progress.

He said of the alleged burglars: ‘Although the guards disturbed them at the end, they made their getaway via a series of taxis back to Orpington, leaving behind at the property two of their “burner” mobile telephones.

‘Virtually all the property they stole has gone.’

The jury heard that days after the Ecclestone raid, Savastru and Mester went shopping in Harrods with one of the alleged burglars.

It is said the trip was used to launder stolen cash, with the trio buying more than £3,000 of goods in notes. ‘Judged by the amount they had on the footage, there was money to burn,’ Mr Cray added.

The court was told that Mester was arrested wearing a pair of stolen earrings. Savastru was caught with a TAG Heuer watch and a Louis Vuitton bag similar to one from the Ecclestone home, it is claimed.

All four defendants deny conspiracy to burgle. Mester and Savastru deny conspiracy to commit money laundering. The trial continues.


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