Gang behind Britain’s biggest ever burglary spree are jailed

Burglar who raided Tamara Ecclestones London home admits money laundering


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 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.

All three admitted conspiracy to burgle the properties earlier this year at Isleworth Crown Court.

Jovanovic admitted conspiracy to commit money laundering in an 11th hour plea before his trial was set to start last month.

He earlier pleaded guilty to attempting to convert criminal property, namely a ‘quantity of money,’ at Harrods on December 14, 2019.

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.

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.’

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

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 

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 ocurt: ‘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.’

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.

Jovanovic carried out the £25million heist at Ms Ecclestone's Kensington property (pictured) with expert jewel thieves Alessandro Maltese, 45, nicknamed the ‘Pink Panther’, and 44-year-old Alessandro Donati

Jovanovic carried out the £25million heist at Ms Ecclestone’s Kensington property (pictured) with expert jewel thieves Alessandro Maltese, 45, nicknamed the ‘Pink Panther’, and 44-year-old Alessandro Donati

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)

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)

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.

‘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

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

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.

‘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. 



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A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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