Self-style playboy James Stunt weeped in court today as he described how his mind was altered by his cocaine addiction at the time of an alleged theft.
The ex-husband of F1 heiress Petra Ecclestone was giving evidence in the trial of his former bodyguard, who is accused of stealing a £515,000 diamond plus £50,000 cash from his £10million home in exclusive Belgravia in December 2017.
Mr Stunt told Southwark Crown Court he wanted to give evidence because he wanted to prove to the media that he wasn’t ‘lying’ about the alleged theft.
Other than the 16.18-carat yellow diamond ring, none of the items that were supposed to be in the safe have ever been recovered.
Missing items also include two blue diamonds, a pink diamond, a large white diamond, six 1kg gold bars, and a Cartier engagement ring.
Prosecutors say Justinas Ivaskevicius, posing as ‘Sebastian Thomasz Kowal’, tried to sell the diamond ring to a jewellery dealer in Antwerp, Belgium, before it was sent to the Gemilogical Institute of America.
Ivaskivicius, 34, was charged with theft and two counts of possession of criminal property following the raid at the mansion in central London.
The Lithuanian-British national bodyguard was arrested by Scotland Yard at a residential address in Cambridge in connection with theft in 2017.
James Stunt arrives at Southwark Crown Court to give evidence in the trial of Justinas Ivaskevicius, 34, who is accused of stealing a £515,000 ring plus £50,000 cash
Body worn footage of police officers who attended the incident was played to jurors after the alleged thief had cleaned out his entire safe at around 3am.
Mr Stunt said during the alleged theft he was in a mind state in which he compared himself to Hollywood film producer and billionaire Howard Hughes, who famously in 1947 locked himself in a screening room for four months eating chocolate bars.
He also said he stopped cooperating with police after ‘wrongly blaming’ them for a tabloid which published details of his custody battle with Ecclestone.
Mr Stunt said: ‘My brother had sadly passed away, my wife left me later that year, and she took my children 2,000 miles away, which left a bitter taste in my mouth.
‘I became addicted to cocaine. I wanted to become a reclusive Howard Hughes figure. I wanted someone to take over my life.
‘After you are vilified by the press and the media, you find in this country you’re hated because you’ve succeeded. In this country, there tends to be a hatred for success. I was not suicidal but I was in a quiet depression.’
On his mental state on December 13 to 14, 2017, Mr Stunt added: ‘I should add I was on cocaine in that part of my life.
‘I never made a secret of that. I was once addicted to that drug. With hindsight I was too soon to snap judgement, I was highly irrational.
‘I had been up all night. I was with a female companion, I don’t need to spell it out for the court. I’m a gentleman, I’m not a callous cad.’
Stunt split from Petra Ecclestone in an acrimonious divorce after six years of marriage
Petra Ecclestone’s ex-husband James Stunt says diamonds he was given by Royal Family were among gems stolen in £30million theft
James Stunt today claimed diamonds given to him by a member of the Royal Family were among gems stolen in a £30million raid on his safe.
Mr Stunt, 38, told Southwark Crown Court the theft from his £10million Belgravia mews home in December 2017 was ‘one of the largest in UK history’.
His former security guard, Justinas Ivaskevicius, 34, is on trial accused of stealing a 16.18-carat fancy yellow diamond ring valued at £515,000.
But Mr Stunt, who months earlier had split from Petra Ecclestone – daughter of former F1 tycoon Bernie – in an acrimonious divorce after six years of marriage, said other more valuable items were also stolen from his safe.
Giving evidence, he said: ‘I lost diamonds, some gifted to me. I’m not going to say from who in this court because it was a deceased member of the Royal Family.’
Jurors were shown pictures of the contents of the safe, which included two blue diamonds, a pink diamond, a large white diamond, six 1kg gold bars, the yellow diamond ring and a Cartier engagement ring, which Stunt said he gave his ex-wife.
‘She was rather rich, she threw it in my face,’ he said.
Mr Stunt said he was alerted to the alleged theft on the morning of December 14, 2017 by schoolfriend Alex Tulloch, who was senior vice president of gold dealing firm Stunt & Co, and acted as his ‘wet nurse’ during a difficult period of his life.
‘The whole thing had been cleaned out. There was literally not a receipt left. They took both my passports – my diplomatic and citizen’s ones,’ he said.
As a picture of a safe containing only a single screw was shown in court, Stunt joked: ‘Maybe that was a signal, ‘you got screwed’.’
Breaking down in tears, he said: ‘At that time I wanted solace and isolation. I wanted to be upstairs with a bag of cocaine because I couldn’t see my children.
‘It’s very hard to not see my children or my brother. I didn’t mean to be in tears.
‘I let my staff take the p*** but I never allowed cheque fraud. [My butler] John Gilmore was employed to keep people away from me.
‘I’m a bit weird, I like the company of people but I don’t always like to be around them. I would be upstairs.
‘If someone’s salary was £5,000, I might allow them to spend 10.
‘That might sound ostentatious or decadent or vulgar but everything is relative – it was the price I was willing to pay to self-medicate.
‘I don’t want the jury to think I’m some heartless cavalier.’
He added: ‘I allowed certain people to get away with things. I wanted to isolate myself. I was willing to pay a price to that.
‘Just because I didn’t inform the police. it doesn’t mean there were not [other] crimes against me.’
Southwark Crown Court heard the key to the safe was in a box in a Rolls Royce glove compartment and the key to the car was in a kitchen wicker basket.
Mr Stunt said: ‘I also believed I had CCTV that was functioning. If you look at the close circuit cameras, I had a security detail, so I thought I could trust it when I moved into the property. I was still Howard Hughes-ing it.
‘This is going to sound terrible to the jury as it’s a lot of money but it was the sentimental value. I care about my dead brother’s watch, my daughter’s Christmas present, my wife’s engagement ring.
‘I’m not the shallow person that people think I am.’
He added to Ivaskivicius’ defence lawyer: ‘You’re doing your job, you’re trying to get your defendant off.
‘I’m not here to prove his guilt or innocence. I’m not trying to get him in prison even, I’m just trying to prove to the world that I wasn’t lying about it.’
He added: ‘I was addicted to cocaine, going through a messy divorce.
‘I thought for a second I could trust the people around me, and no one would be foolish enough to leave keys in a wicker basket or to leave the key to the safe in a car.’
Asked why the safe was in the study on the ground floor rather than on the top floor, Mr Stunt said the safe was heavier than its contents.
He said: ‘I didn’t expect it to be Fort Knox. Honestly, Hercules couldn’t have lifted that thing.’
Mr Stunt also claimed that before the court case he was no recollection of Ivaskivicius and at the time he was often going to nightclubs and being a ‘Champagne Charlie’.
He said: ‘I do not remember your client. I understand he did work for me.
Justinas Ivaskevicius, 34, is accused of stealing the 16.18-carat yellow diamond from Mr Stunt’s Belgravia mews property (pictured), where he was working as a security guard
‘I’m not here to determine his guilt or innocence. I don’t remember his face. I don’t mean to be derogatory to your defendant. I don’t know him.’
He added: ‘I employed hundreds of people and indirectly employed many more.’
Once worth an estimated £3billion, Mr Stunt had his assets and cash frozen at the High Court in 2018 at the request of the CPS in a ‘proceeds of crime’ restraint order.
In 2019, Mr Stunt was declared bankrupt, and this year, his £11million luxury cottage in Belgravia was repossessed along with his two apartments overlooking Chelsea Harbour, each worth £5million.
After the alleged theft, he said he had no insurance.
Ivaskivicius, who wore a dark suit and a white tie, denies theft and and two counts of possession of criminal property.
He also denies possessing an identity document with improper intention, producing a class B drug and four counts of handling stolen goods.
The trial continues.