A security guard accused of helping burglars who made away with £25million during a raid on Tamara Ecclestone’s home today told a court he had no idea his friends were thieves.
Sorin Marcovici, a 53-year-old Romanian, was one of the ‘supporting cast’ for a gang of burglars who had travelled from Italy to break into celebrities’ homes last December, it is claimed.
The thieves raided cash and valuables from Ms Ecclestone’s house in Kensington on December 13 as part of a series of raids which also targeted Christine Lampard and the late Leicester City FC chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha.
Sorin Marcovici, a 53-year-old Romanian, was one of the ‘supporting cast’ for a gang of burglars who had travelled from Italy to break into celebrities’ homes last December, it is claimed
The thieves raided cash and valuables from Ms Ecclestone’s house in Kensington on December 13. She is pictured with her husband, Jay Rutland
Marcovici, along with escort Maria Mester, 47, her barman son Emile-Bogdan Savastru, 30, security worker Sorin Marcovici, 53, and hotel concierge Alexandru Stan, 49, denies involvement in the raids.
He is said to have met childhood friend Mester and the alleged burglars – who cannot be named for legal reasons – in the days leading up to the break-ins.
Marcovici said he occasionally drives people around for money and denied ever knowing about a plan to commit any burglaries or agreeing to participate in any conspiracy by helping them carry out ‘reconnaissance’.
He said: ‘Never, I have ever known anything, and if I knew that something happened and felt instinctively something was wrong I would have reported it to the police, because this is my home country.’
Three days before the Eccleston raid, the gang took seven Patek Phillippe watches worth £600,000 combined and €400,000 cash from a safe in Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s home near Harrods three days earlier, jurors heard.
Prior to the raid, one of the suspected burglars texted Marcovici asking for a ‘cutting tool’ in Italian, it is claimed. But today Marcovici told jurors he thought he was talking about a ‘cut of lamb’.
At 3pm Marcovici told Mester he could not drive to the late Leicester City chairman’s property in Belgravia because he was ‘doing work on his car’.
Marcovici told jurors at Isleworth Crown Court that he met Mester in Victoria on December 8, before they drove his BMW Avant to a Serbian restaurant in Ealing where two of the alleged burglars met him.
He added: ‘We were just talking about stuff, childhood related, how we used to have coffee together, talking through some friends.
‘They asked me how long it would take to get a national insurance number, how you could rent a flat, how you set up a company.
‘Maria asked me if I could give them a lift to their hotel because they would pay me.’
Henry Grunwald, QC, for Marcovici, said: ‘Was any arrangement made about the following day?’
The heist at Ms Ecclestone’s house (above) took place on ‘Billionaire’s Row’ in Kensington
Marcovici said: ‘One of the guys said whether I could drive to the Chelsea area, somewhere in Chelsea to retrieve some tools from a site where they had been working.’
While the alleged burglary team were in the Chelsea area near Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s home Marcovici said he was having a glass of cola and crisps at the Cross Keys Public house.
He told jurors: ‘I said: I don’t drive them back if they don’t pay me.
‘One of them said at the hotel they would pay me the money. They didn’t.
‘They went to the hotel. So I was waiting for one of them to come and pay me because I had an argument there, because I did not drop them near to the shopping centre, it would have been 200-300m further.
‘I was not sure, I said I would drive them to the hotel so somebody would come and bring me the money.
‘I stayed there I had a cigarette, I realised that they cheated on me and then I called and the guy said “rest assured you’re going to get paid”.
He said he found the phone that linked him to the rest of the burglars in the well of his car after they left.
The text message apparently asking for a cutting tool in Italian, sounded to him like a ‘cut of lamb’.
He said: ‘I did not understand the content of the message or the translation of what it was saying.
‘”Agnello” means “lamb” in Italian and ‘taglio’ means cut, ‘cut lamb’ I thought it was.
Prostitute Maria Mester denies conspiracy to commit burglary and concealing criminal property
He added: ‘If I knew anything at all I wouldn’t have said that I was going to go the following day because I knew they were going to steal something.
‘I thought that they would need the car every day until the moment I would go on holiday.
‘They said initially that I should go because they would pay me for the previous day, initially at half past twelve I thought that I would go, the weather worsened.
‘You know I’m not going for £60, I’d rather sell a pair of jeans, it would have been too much to travel and I was not feeling very well in the morning.’
Marcovici earlier explained to jurors that he sold clothes to friends and at markets on top of his security work.
The burglars also made off with £60,000 worth of valuables from the Chelsea home Frank Lampard shares with television presenter Christine Lampard on December 1.
On 17 December Mester was filmed on a luxury goods spending spree at Harrods with a sister of one of the alleged burglars.
Mester and her son Emile-Bogdan Savastru, 30, who has also been accused of helping the burglars
She is accused of bringing in her son Savastru to help organise the thieves’ stay in London.
Savastru was caught in possession of a Tag Heuer watch and Louis Vuitton bag, similar to one taken in the raid, and was planning to board a flight to Japan, it is claimed.
Mester, of no fixed address, denies three counts of conspiracy to commit burglary and concealing criminal property.
Savastru, of Bethnal Green, denies two counts of conspiracy to burgle and attempting to remove criminal property.
Marcovici, of Romford, and Stan, of Harrow, deny conspiracy to burgle.
The trial continues.