Gang behind Britain's biggest ever burglary spree are jailed
Gang behind Britain’s biggest ever burglary spree are jailed: Italian thieves who stole £26m from celebrity homes including Tamara Ecclestone’s Kensington mansion and Frank Lampard’s house are sentenced to 28 years behind bars
- Jugoslav Jovanovic, Alessandro Maltese, and Alessandro Donati, are facing jail
- They admitted carrying out three raids in West London over 13 days in 2019
- Ms Ecclestone is the daughter of ex-Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone
- Her and husband’s home was ransacked while they were in Lapland on holiday
- Other victims included former Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard and the late Leicester city owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha after he died in helicopter crash
Socialite Tamara Ecclestone said she felt ‘violated’ after her mansion was ransacked of £25million in cash and gems in Britain’s biggest ever burglary.
Jugoslav Jovanovic, 24, Alessandro Maltese, 45, and Alessandro Donati, 44, have been jailed for a total of 28 years at Isleworth Crown Court after stealing £26million worth of cash, jewellery and gems from celebrity homes in Britain’s biggest ever burglary spree.
They also raided the west London home of former Chelsea manager Frank Lampard and his 42-year-old wife Christine, and a Knightsbridge property owned by the deceased Leicester City football club owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha, who died in a helicopter crash in 2018.
Jovanovic, Maltese and Donati were extradited from Italy and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle between November 29 and December 18, 2019, over the three raids.
Jovanovic also admitted conspiracy to commit money laundering between December 10, 2019, and January 31 last year, and one count of attempting to convert criminal property, namely a ‘quantity of money,’ at Harrods on December 14, 2019.
He was today jailed for 11 years by Judge Martin Edmunds QC at Isleworth Crown Court, while Maltese and Donati were each sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison.
The men, who were brought to court under armed police guard as a helicopter flew overhead, will return to Italy to serve their sentences following proceeds of crime proceedings in the UK.
Ms Ecclestone, 37, the daughter of ex-Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone was on a skiing holiday with her husband Jay Rutland and her children at the time of the raid on December 13, 2019.
Her home in Kensington Palace Gardens was so huge that security staff did not even notice the thieves breaking in through the back garden.
The raids left the gang with ‘money to burn’ and they squandered a fortune celebrating their success in the West End’s upmarket shops and restaurants.
Italian nationals Jugoslav Jovanovic (left), 24, Alessandro Donati (middle), and Alessandro Maltese (right), 45, are facing jail after admitting three raids in west London over just 13 days in December 2019
Tamara Ecclestone was on holiday in Lapland with her husband, art gallery owner Jay Rutland (pictured together in October 2019), 38, their daughter and their dog when hundreds of items were stolen from their mansion in Palace Green, Kensington, in what is believed to have been the highest value burglary ever in the UK
In a victim impact statement read out for the first time today, Ms Ecclestone said: ‘It’s been really awful.
‘I’m so scared, I will not leave my daughter alone in the house at night, because I just feel like the people I am meant to trust, I don’t, I’m not sure that I can trust anyone.’
The F1 heiress said she now gets scared in her own home.
‘An example recently, was that Jay was in the bedroom, I could see a shadow of feet near me while I was bathing my daughter and I freaked out,’ she said.
‘I feel like [my daughter] is picking up my vibe a little bit now, she won’t even go to the toilet without [being] like mummy come with me.
‘And, she talks about burglars now as well, which is really really hard and that’s the worst part trying to pretend to her nothing actually did happen, and to try to make her feel the house is a safe space.
‘Besides the stuff that’s gone missing which some of it has made me really sad, because it’s like stuff my mum and dad got me, my mum got me a wedding present.
‘A lot of it was really personal, I wanted to give some of the items to my daughter one day but aside from that it has been really hard to try and carry on as normal.
‘It’s strange knowing that there were people, like on top of the jewellery cabinet where there were photos of my daughter and to know they touched that stuff and been in there, makes me feel really kind of like violated.
‘I just didn’t want to come back after the holiday at all, it was such a strange feeling like coming back through the door and trying to retrace the steps with Jay trying to see if he can open that window and fit through it.
‘The fact [the burglars] were behind my daughters playhouse in the garden, and all the stuff [that] relates to her really freaks me out.’
Jewellery at the Kensington home of Tamara Ecclestone and her husband Jay Rutland as burglars carried out what police described as Britain’s biggest ever domestic burglary plot
Photo issued by the Metropolitan Police shows the screwdrivers left at the Kensington home owned by Ms Ecclestone
She said she is now ‘obsessing over security’ with gates with barbed wire and spikes, and she was thinking of moving to an apartment.
‘It’s not really how I want to live my life,’ she added.
Mr Rutland said in his statement read to the court: ‘My daughter is now, on a semi-regular basis, talking about it even though we told her that the burglars did not actually manage to break in. She asks me and Tamara if the burglars are coming back.
‘I feel a whole combination of emotions, anger that they have stolen from us, fear that they could come back and sadness that sentimental pieces of jewellery which were gifts at our wedding or at the birth of our daughter were stolen that cannot be replaced.
‘Whilst my wife and I continue to support one another it is incredibly difficult for me to see how much it has affected her and how nervous she has become.’
Police said the gang are believed to have carried out similar crimes against high-profile victims across Europe and had planned to commit further raids on the rich and famous in the UK.
Detectives have not revealed the identities of other potential victims, who did not know how close they came to being burgled as the thieves carried out reconnaissance missions and dummy runs.
Earlier Timothy Cray QC, prosecuting, told the court: ‘The evidence shows that these were organised crimes carried out by organised criminals.’
The group flew into the UK to carry out the plans and acted as a disciplined team, each with their own role in the crimes concerned.
They used anti-surveillance knowledge such as burner phones and were rarely seen together in public places where they would be tracked by CCTV cameras.
Apart from a few relatively small value items, none of the £26million taken has been recovered.
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 £26million 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.’
Jovanovic and alleged co-conspirator Daniel Vukovic, who remains at large, flew into the UK on November 30, 2019, and stayed at the TLK Hotel and Apartments near Orpington in St Mary’s Cray.
The burglars carried out the first raid at the home former Chelsea and England midfielder Lampard, 43, shares with his TV presenter wife Christine Lampard.
On the evening of December 1, Jovanovic rang the front doorbell to check the celebrity couple were out.
The raiders broke in over a wall into the back garden, scaled a trellis at the back of the house and forced open the balcony doors, entering through the master bedroom.
They fled with a rose gold Patek Philippe watch, a rose gold Rolex watch, a white gold Patek Philippe pocket watch, a Mia Lia gold necklace and a pair of white gold Patek Philippe cufflinks when an alarm went off.
Frank Lampard said in a victim impact statement: ‘I would say that this incident has had a major impact on general feeling of security, particularly with having a 16 month old baby.
‘The fact that my job means that I travel frequently again raises my concerns. I know that Christine and Chana had been impacted. Neither Christine nor I are sleeping too well as a consequence of this incident.
‘I would add that while I have been an unfortunate victim of a crime previously, particularly burglary, this incident has had a far greater impact on our lives.’
The gang also took some £60,000 worth of watches and jewellery from the west London home of Chelsea FC legend Frank Lampard and his television presenter wife Christine (pictured here with Frank Lampard)
On December 11, Jovanovic booked a table at Zuma Restaurant in Knightsbridge for five people and the bill came to £760.15
His wife Christine Lampard said: ‘Since this break in at my house, I am much more fearful of being alone in my own home, I am less trusting of visitors to the house and feel unsafe in my home.
Jewel thief swiped chewing gum on way to commit Britain’s biggest burglary
An international jewel thief swiped a packet of chewing gum from a train station kiosk on his way to commit Britain’s biggest ever burglary.
Alessandro Maltese, 45, was part of the gang that ransacked the homes of celebrities, stealing some £26 million worth of cash, jewellery, diamonds, gems and watches in the highest value string of raids in the country’s history.
The spree included a £25 million raid on the mansion of socialite Tamara Ecclestone, 37, which is thought to be the single biggest ever domestic burglary in the UK.
Detectives said the gang travelled to Victoria station in central London from St Mary Cray, south-east London, before getting a taxi to Old Church Street and on to Kensington to commit the crime.
‘All four decided they wanted to get a pastry and a coffee, at which point Maltese decided to help himself,’ said Detective Constable Andrew Payne.
‘The gang just couldn’t help themselves, they wanted it all.’
DC Payne described Maltese’s shoplifting, later spotted during a CCTV trawl of the station, as a ‘bizarre element’ of the case.
He said the theft was done by ‘sleight of hand’, adding: ‘You’ll blink and you’ll miss it, so he’s done that before.’
‘I have a young daughter and feel vulnerable in a home which I had previously always felt safe and happy in. I have struggled to sleep sometimes since the incident as I am sensitive to any noise from outside fearing another attack.’
After the first burglary, Jovanovic and Vukovic bought a phone at Cash Convertors in Orpington and went shopping in Knightsbridge, where they bought some shoes for around 800 euros. They also opened a Harrods loyalty card, giving a false name.
On December 10, the gang hit 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.
They broke in through patio doors and managed to force open a safe escaping with £1million in property including seven Patek Philippe watches and 400,000 in euros.
They also stole a collection of Thai Buddha pendants and a Tag Heuer Connected smart watch from a table, which one accomplice was wearing when he was arrested while attempting to leave the UK.
The family of Mr Srivaddhanaprabha said in a statement read to the court: ‘Our late father’s residence was a place of reflection and to pray. We felt it was the strongest connection to him as he spent his last night there before his death.
‘Since the burglary, our sacred and special connection has been damaged and violated beyond repair.’
On December 11, Jovanovic booked a table at Zuma Restaurant in Knightsbridge for five people and the bill came to £760.15.
On December 13, the gang turned to Ms Ecclestone’s mansion. The family had flown to Lapland in Finland for a Christmas holiday.
On this occasion, Jovanovic was acting as a lookout.
‘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, said Mr Cray.
‘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.’
The Palace Green home had security features including monitored alarms, CCTV, and security guards.
It is situated on a private road of extremely high value properties, including the embassies of Russia, Israel, France, Romania, Iran as well as some very rich people.
On December 10, the gang hit the Knightsbridge home of Mr Srivaddhanaprabha (pictured) in Walton Place. The raid took place more than a year after he was killed in a helicopter accident after a Leicester City game
A safe opened by burglars at the home of the late Leicester City FC chairman Thai billionaire Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha in central London
A Tag Heuer Connected smart watch which had cost more than £1,000, was stolen from the home of Mr Srivaddhanaprabha
An opened £500 bottle of Cristal champagne left by burglars at the home of Mr Srivaddhanaprabha
The road is controlled by manned security gates and guarded by armed and unarmed police.
‘But put very simply it looks as if the burglars were lucky in two main ways,’ said Mr Cray.
Tamara Ecclestone ‘obsessing over security’ after raid
‘It’s been really awful.
‘I’m so scared I will not leave my daughter alone in the house at night, because I just feel like the people I am meant to trust, I don’t – I’m not sure that I can trust anyone. I have just been so scared.’
Ms Ecclestone said the loss of gifts from her parents, including a wedding present from her mother, ‘made me really sad’, adding: ‘A lot of it was really personal, I wanted to give some of the items to my daughter one day.
‘It hasn’t been easy but I guess now it just makes me think, what if, if something worse… It has got me thinking all different kinds of things, and I’m now obsessing over security, the gates and barbed wires, spikes and stuff, and it’s not really how I want to live my life.’
Her husband, Mr Rutland, said Ms Ecclestone is ‘petrified’ to go out or leave their daughter, who talks about the break-in.
‘She asks me and Tamara if the burglars are coming back,’ he said.
‘I feel a whole combination of emotions: anger that they have stolen from us, fear that they could come back, and sadness that sentimental pieces of jewellery which were gifts at our wedding or at the birth of our daughter were stolen that cannot be replaced.’
‘First once they had got through the perimeter via the back garden the house was so large that noise was difficult to pick up from the security office.
‘Second the internal alarms were not set because the security guards were present and there were various administrative tasks they had to carry out, for example, making and receiving deliveries, even though the family were away.
‘All this meant that once the burglars got past the monitors and cameras in the back garden, they had a large empty house to themselves and therefore they had the time and opportunity to steal £25million pounds worth of jewellery and cash.’
The burglars took almost 400 items of jewellery, 150 of which were valued at £8.4million. The value of the other 250 items is between £18million and £21million.
They stole watches to the value of £2million belonging to Ms Ecclestone and watches to the value of £400,000 belonging to Mr Rutland as well as £125,000 in sterling and 200,000 Hong Kong dollars, which is around £20,000.
The earrings and a necklace that accomplice Maria Mester was wearing when she was arrested on January 30, 2020, looked identical to the items stolen from the property.
Jovanovic made his way to Harrods and tried to spend £8,985 in cash on Louis Vuitton clothing but the transactions were declined.
On December 18, Jovanovic flew out of the UK from London City Airport to Milan.
‘When he flew out from London city airport it appears he dyed his hair bleach blond in an attempt to change his appearance,’ said Mr Cray.
Jovanovic was arrested by armed officers who stormed a seaside villa near Rome last October and was extradited to the UK nearly six months later on, April 2.
The master criminal is a fan of the British comedy show Mr Bean.
His Facebook profile carries two pictures of Rowan Atkinson’s character, including one of Mr Bean sitting in an armchair on the roof of a yellow Mini.
Donati appeared in court wearing a green Armani EA7 tracksuit, while Maltese was dressed in a sweatshirt and black trousers, Jovanovic was wearing a grey tracksuit.
Jovanovic, of no fixed address, admitted conspiracy to burgle, between November 30, 2019 and February 1, 2020, attempting to convert criminal property and conspiracy to commit money laundering between November 30, and February 1, 2020.
Maltese and Donati, both of no fixed address, admitted conspiracy to burgle.
Romanian sex worker Maria Mester, 47, and her barman son Emile-Bogdan Savastru, 29, together with security worker Sorin Marcovici AKA ‘The Professor’, 52 and hotel worker Alexandru Stan, 49, were cleared by a jury of conspiracy to burgle in January this year.
Police say £26m burglary gang plotted to target other celebrity properties in west London
The international gang that ransacked celebrity homes in Britain’s biggest ever burglary spree planned to target other properties owned by the rich and famous.
Metropolitan Police Detective Constable Andrew Payne said: ‘This was, combined with other offences identified, the biggest residential crime series in British history.’
Police said the gang are believed to have carried out similar crimes against high-profile victims across Europe and had planned to commit further burglaries at the homes of other well-known figures based in the UK.
Detectives have not revealed the identities of other potential victims, who do not know how close they came to being burgled as the thieves carried out reconnaissance missions and dummy runs.
DC Payne said: ‘What obviously is clear is that the people they are targeting are people generally of extreme wealth and the likelihood of hitting the jackpot is greatly higher than someone else.’
He added that the gang may have scoured social media to find out if their victims were at home.
‘A lot of people live their lives on social media,’ he said. ‘That may have been an element of how they planned it. We don’t know.’
DC Payne said the thieves believed they had got away ‘scot-free’ following the raids and ‘clearly enjoyed their newfound wealth’.
Jovanovic and Vukovic, his uncle, were later seen on CCTV in Harrods department store, spending thousands of pounds on luxury goods and signing up for loyalty cards using fake names.
Vukovic, believed to be a Serbian national who uses a string of aliases, fled to the capital, Belgrade, where he is still thought to be following a failed extradition bid.
The other three, all Italian nationals, left for Milan, with Jovanovic bleaching his hair to change his appearance before flying out of London City Airport.
British police started off with just 15 seconds of grainy black and white CCTV footage from the Ecclestone raid, and Jovanovic, Maltese and Donati – wearing the same jacket he had used for the burglaries – were stunned when they were extradited from Italy.
DC Payne said they had made their names in the criminal underworld by trying to ‘make themselves ghosts and shadows’ to avoid getting caught.
‘They were amazed they had even been caught and actually praised us for having found them,’ he said.
‘They believed they were untouchable.
‘The locations identified to have been burgled were, on paper, almost impossible to achieve without being caught. The targets were impenetrable. However, this did not deter them in their selfish greed.
‘The plots are comparable to what you would see in a Hollywood movie, but unfortunately this was real life, involving real victims who have suffered greatly by their actions.’
Only a handful of items have been recovered, including Ecclestone’s ‘Octopussy’ diamond earrings, which escort Maria Mester, 48, was wearing when she was arrested at Stansted Airport after arriving on a flight from Milan on January 31 last year.
Her bartender son, Emil Bogdan Savastru, 30, was wearing Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s watch and carrying Mr Rutland’s Louis Vuitton bag when he was held at Heathrow the previous day as he prepared to fly to Japan.
The rest of the £26million haul has not been recovered and is believed to have been taken abroad.
‘It’s buried treasure somewhere, globally,’ said DC Payne.
Jovanovic, Maltese and Donati pleaded guilty at Isleworth Crown Court to conspiracy to burgle between November 29 and December 18 2019.
Jovanovic also admitted conspiracy to commit money laundering between December 10, 2019 and January 31 last year, and one count of attempting to convert criminal property, relating to a failed bid to buy two Louis Vuitton jackets from Harrods using stolen cash.
In January, Romanian nationals Mester, Savastru, Alexandru Stan, 50, and Sorin Marcovici, 54, were cleared of conspiracy to commit burglary following a two-month trial, after jurors decided they were not part of the “supporting cast”.
Savastru was convicted of attempting to conceal criminal property.
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