A cleaner caught with £300,000 earrings stolen after a raid on Tamara Ecclestone’s home insisted today she has no idea who two of her co-defendants are.
Maria Mester, 47, was allegedly wearing the jewellery when she was held after arriving at Stansted airport on January 31, travelling from Italy where she lives.
The raid happened after Ms Ecclestone, the daughter of former Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, headed off for her Christmas holiday with husband Jay Rutland and their daughter Sophia.
Earlier this year Mester, who was born in Romania, denied plotting to burgle Ms Ecclestone’s mansion and concealing criminal property.
Security worker Alexandru Stan, 49, and barman Sorin Marcovici, 52, are the latest to be charged following the burglary at Miss Ecclestone’s £70m mansion in Kensington on December 13.
Mester’s bar worker son Emil-Bogdan Savastru, 29, of Bethnal Green, also denies conspiracy to commit burglary, having custody or control of a counterfeit currency note and attempting to remove criminal property.
It is claimed Savastru was found in possession of a Louis Vuitton bag similar to one taken in the raid and was planning to board a flight to Japan, which he denies.
Most of the £50m of stolen property has never been recovered.
Prosecutor Paul Jarvis told Judge John Denniss at Isleworth Crown Court today he would be seeking to join the case of Stan and Marcovici with Savastru and Mester’s case and have them all tried together.
Judge Denniss said to Mester, who appeared in court via video-link from custody: ‘Your barrister has told me that you do not wish to be joined with the other defendants in trial.
‘There is an application to join Mr Stan and Mr Marcovici to your case.’
Speaking through a Romanian interpreter Mester replied: ‘I don’t even know those people. I’ve only seen them in documents.’
Earlier, Sophie Akister, prosecuting, said: ‘The Crown says this case relates to an investigation into burglaries of properties in southwest London.
‘The Crown say there were three burglaries, on 1 December, 2 December and 13 December.
‘With respect of Mr Stan these were three venues that are occupied by high profile, high net-worth with £17m estimated stolen.
‘These subjects were identified in communication data and we say played a role in the enterprise, the group involved were sophisticated and we say not opportunistic.
‘It is an international organised crime group, Mr Stan was a part of.’
Ms Ecclestone was said to have been left ‘shaken’ by the raid on her hidden safes at the 55-room property near Hyde Park, where neighbours include Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and the Sultan of Brunei.
The Duke and Duchess’s Kensington Palace residence is one road from Ms Ecclestone’s neighbours Palace Green mansion.
Ms Ecclestone, her husband Jay and daughter have shared photos of the luxury mansion on social media in the past, and featured it on their ITVbe reality show.
Savastru, Stan and Marcovici were also due to appear via video-link from custody today but were not produced due to an administrative mix-up.
Defending Marcovici, Ben Rowe told the judge: ‘There is a problem in producing Mr Marcovici and Mr Stan, they were thought to be in prisons which they weren’t and they haven’t been produced.’
A total of eleven advocates appeared on the court video-link today but due to technical difficulties and the non-appearance of some interpreters and defendants the hearing was adjourned.
Prosecutor Paul Jarvis said: ‘In the circumstances in which we are all operating at the moment it is extremely difficult for everyone to make meaningful submissions.’
Judge Denniss told the court: ‘We simply cannot proceed today with counsel not being able to hear and some defendants not being produced.
‘The video system was not designed for so many people and it is proving very difficult for me to provide instructions this morning.
‘Today clearly demonstrates that the system is inappropriate for a multi-handed case.
‘It is a waste of money and a waste of time and I’m going to record that.’
Stan, of Harrow, is charged with conspiracy to commit burglary with intent to steal between November 29 and December 9 2019.
Marcovici, of Romford, is charged with conspiracy to commit burglary with intent to steal between December 6 and 12 December 2019.
Both men will next appear along with Savastru and Mester at Isleworth Crown Court on September 11.