An alleged gang of international jewellery thieves grabbed more than £25m in jewellery and cash in burglaries on the homes of Frank Lampard and Tamara Ecclestone, a court heard.
The raiders also escaped with a £1m haul including 400,000 euros from the Knightsbridge home of late Leicester City chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha after smashing one of his safes with hammers.
The raids left the alleged gang with ‘money to burn’ and they squandered a fortune celebrating their success in the West End’s most upmarket shops and restaurants.
Thieves grabbed more than £25m in jewellery and cash in burglaries on celebrities’ homes, including that of Tamara Ecclestone (pictured)
Jurors heard the Ecclestone £70m mansion in Kensington Palace Gardens was so huge that security staff did not even notice the thieves breaking in through the back garden
Jurors heard the Ecclestone £70m mansion in Kensington Palace Gardens was so huge that security staff did not even notice the thieves breaking in through the back garden.
On trial at Isleworth Crown Court are four defendants accused of being the ‘support team’ of the burglars who had travelled from Italy to break into the celebrities’ homes from a base in Orpington, Kent, in the fortnight before Christmas last year.
‘The aim of the plan, quite simply, was to steal as much as possible from some fantastic houses in this city of London,’ said prosecutor Tim Cray.
‘These three burglaries netted big money – in round figures £26 million worth of property was stolen, and that was mainly in some fabulous jewellery and in cold hard cash.
‘And virtually all that property despite the best efforts of the police has never been seen again.’
The four defendants deny involvement in the raids.
The home of Frank Lampard an his wife Christine was also allegedly targetd by the gang of thieves
A general view of the road where Frank and Christine Lampard’s £10million home is located
‘There were no arrests up until the end of January this year, so up to that point a month and half afterwards, the people must have believed that they were scot-free – that they had done it that they had vanished from the law’s radar just as effectively as the property that they had stolen had disappeared,’ Mr Cray said.
‘These crimes were organised: the thieves did not just happen to find their way to the target houses by chance and they did not just steal and launder £26 million worth of property by luck.
‘They hit these three houses in just 13 days – between 1 December and 13 December last year and by 18 December most of the people involved had left the country, almost certainly, we suggest, with the proceeds of the crimes.
‘This success took time and effort, and in this trial you will see evidence of planning, scouting trips, research on the target properties, concealment of identities and communications and the use of a support network – all features of organisation.
‘Every star needs a supporting cast and that’s how we allege that these defendants stand to the burglars.
‘They were there to help with matters such as accommodation, transport, communication – fitting round the burglars before, during and after the break-ins.’
The first raid was at the home Chelsea manager Lampard, 42, shares with his TV presenter wife Christine Lampard.
On the evening of December 1 the raiders rang the front doorbell to check the celebrity couple were out.
‘Having first checked that no one was in, they made their way to an adjoining street and gained entry by the back garden,’ Mr Cray said.
‘They stole watches, a clock and a pair of cufflinks.
‘The alarm went off and they had to get out before the police arrived – the police came to the front and just missed them.
‘It looks like either going in or out, one of the burglars cut his hands climbing over a wall that was protected with broken glass.’
On December 10 the alleged burglars raided the Knightsbridge home of Mr Srivaddhanaprabha in Walton Place, more than a year after he was killed in a helicopter accident after a Leicester City game.
‘The location is in sight of one of the entrances to Harrods,’ Mr Cray said.
‘Having checked that no one was in the burglars forced entry to the house through the patio windows.
‘They then ransacked the five floors including attempts to force safes, one of which they did manage to break into.
‘The break-in seems to be by fairly brutal, means by banging it with hammers.
Tamara Ecclestone’s 57-room, £70 million mansion in London’s most expensive street
‘They got away with £1 million in property including more expensive watches such as a Patek Phillipe and haul in cash in the safe was about and around 400,000 euros.’
One of the stolen watches was recovered from one of the defendents when they were arrested, the court heard.
On the day after the raid five of the burglary gang enjoyed lunch at the exclusive Japanese restaurant Zuma, on Raphael Street, Knightsbridge.
‘The cost of the meal came to £760.15,’ Mr Cray said.
‘CCTV footage from St Mary Cray railway station on 11 December 2019 showed five people arriving there at 11.10 pm.
‘There seems to have been some small celebration, a Chateaux Ruinart rosé champagne, a small celebration to clink the glasses perhaps.’
On December 13 the gang made their £25m score when they hit Ecclestone’s home in Kensington.
‘The story of this burglary is a bit of a story itself, they get in through the back, three of them,’ Mr Cray said.
‘One at the bottom of the road near the Chinese restaurant keeping watch.
‘This family is wealthy, the family had a team of security guards keeping watch, the guards were there but the guards missed the men coming through the back garden as you see.
‘Once in the house, the house is just so big that the guards didn’t realise the burglars were in and didn’t realise what was going on until the burglary was underway.
‘One sees on the CCTV, thinks “what’s that?” he runs in and makes a phone call to the other guard who’s gone to Tescos to pick up some groceries.
‘He drops the groceries and drives the Land Rover to what they would think is the worst thing that could happen, to find £25m had been stolen.
‘The security guards present did not see the men enter through the back garden.
‘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 and the three items highlighted are the very small tip of a very large iceberg,’ Mr Cray said.
‘The burglary is done, they’ve got away, and to them that must be worth more than one bottle of champagne when they decide to celebrate.’
On 17 December 2019, two of the accused went to Harrods to do some Christmas shopping with one of the alleged burglars.
‘They purchased over £3,000 of goods using cash and then left,’ Mr Cray said.
‘Judged by the amount they had on the footage, there was money to burn.’
One was arrested at Stansted wearing a pair of stolen earrings on January 31 and posted a Facebook photograph of themselves wearing one of the stolen necklaces, the court heard.
Another 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.
The thieves also escaped with a £1m haul including 400,000 euros from the Knightsbridge home of late Leicester City chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha (pictured) after smashing one of his safes with hammers
Jurors heard one defendant assisted two of the alleged burglary team during the 1 December raid at the Lampards’ home by providing them with new clothes after they were injured and booking them a taxi to their base in Orpington.
They are said to have been ‘inseparable’ from the alleged burglars and while another assisted by driving them to Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s property.
One of the accused arrived in the UK from Japan on 12 December to organise travel and accommodation for the final raid on Ecclestone’s home and the subsequent disappearance of the thieves, it is claimed.
In opening speeches to the jury, each of the defence teams outlined their version of events.
Mr David Jeremy said his client had only met the alleged burglars before the first raid after which he dropped out.
He said: ‘[My client] accepts that saw those two men twice more on the 2nd and 5th of December but this was again to do with the help he had been asked to give them, help with the language, with accommodation, with buying a car.
‘At no stage did he know they had committed one burglary, and others.’
Glenn Smith, for another client, said the Ecclestone burglary had been an inside job.
‘The house is situated on one of the most expensive roads in the UK, if not the world,’ the barrister said.
He added: ‘A road that is so heavily guarded that it contains the Israeli embassy, the Russian embassy, the homes of Roman Ambramovic, it’s opposite Kensington Palace itself.
‘It’s an extraordinary road, yet for an hour, just after the security of alarms had been conveniently deactivated by one of the guards, the burglars ransacked the jewellery.
‘Itself behind fortifications and locked doors, kept in a carbonate itself locked in a massive house but somehow they got into it just after the alarm was deactivated.
‘They somehow got into the room, someone into the jewellery cabinet, all with no damage.
‘Tamara herself straight away thought “this is an inside job, there’s no way someone could get into this house unless someone had helped.
‘This denotes a burglary team of the highest vocation, planned professionals, Mr Cray says “really good”.
He said it was ‘real Mission Impossible stuff to have thought of doing that job and pulling it off.
The trial is being held at Isleworth Crown Court (pictured) in Middlesex
Henry Grunwald said his defendant denies any knowledge or involvement in the burglaries.
Adam Kaye said his client had been on holiday in Japan with a toothache until 12 December when he returned and helped book properties for his mother and the alleged burglars.
He said his client found the Louis Vuitton bag in the rented flat and thought they had been left for them.
Due to social distancing the trial is being heard with two defendents in a main trial court and two others video-linked to a separate courtroom at Isleworth crown court.
Between the four defendants they all deny charges of conspiracy to burgle or attempting to remove criminal property.
The trial continues.