A robber threatened to cut former England footballer Ashley Cole’s fingers off with pliers during a violent break-in at his home, a court has heard.
Nottingham Crown Court was told the ex-Arsenal, Chelsea and Derby County left-back was cable-tied and led around the house in just a pair of shorts during the ordeal.
Kurtis Dilks, 34, is accused of being part of a four-strong gang who in January 2020 smashed their way into the home of the former England defender and his partner Sharon Canu with a sledgehammer before stealing jewellery, mobile phones and a BMW key.
The couple’s two young children were in the house at the time and Ms Canu had tried to call police as she hid in a wardrobe.
But, prosecutor Michael Brady QC, told the court: “The next thing Ms Canu knew was when one of the robbers opened the wardrobe door and took the phone from her while she was talking to the police. She then saw Mr Cole on his knees with his hands tied behind his back.”
Mr Brady said the robbers then tried to bound Ms Canu’s hands but at first “rather bravely” she refused.
“That bravery understandably evaporated to a certain extent when she was threatened with a knife,” he added.
Huddlestone also targeted
The court heard Dilks was also accused of raiding the home of ex-Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Tom Huddlestone – and is further facing accusations of being part of a six-strong gang who allegedly stole the £3.75 million Portland Tiara from the Welbeck Estate in 2018.
The tiara was worn to the coronation of Edward VII.
Prosecutors said its theft, previously described as a “national treasure”, was a “shocking event” and it will never again be seen in its original state.
Mr Brady told jurors Mr Huddlestone’s home was targeted in a “well-planned operation” while he was playing a match for Derby County.
Dilks, Ashley Cumberpatch and Andrew MacDonald are accused of conspiring to rob Mr Huddlestone’s wife, Joanna Dixon, of £500,000 of jewellery and handbags, including her wedding and engagement rings.
Jurors were told robbers tied Ms Dixon’s hands behind her back with cable ties, with one saying: “Don’t make this difficult, we don’t want to manhandle you.”
Mr Brady told the jury the defendants were “to a greater or lesser extent involved in a series of extremely serious, high-profile, carefully planned and at times ruthlessly executed burglaries and violent robberies”.
He said the accused had not been deterred by people in the houses as they were “armed with weapons and the means to subdue them” and even the presence of children “did not perturb them”.
Mr Brady told jurors that property stolen during the burglaries and robberies was passed to professional handlers Tevfik Guccuk and Sercan Evsin, who were tasked with selling it.
At the time they ran an “ostensibly legitimate jewellery business in Hatton Garden”.
He continued: “Such was the value and conspicuous nature of some of the items stolen that it was not possible to sell them in the UK. The inference to be drawn from the evidence is that at times the property had to be disposed of abroad.”
Tiara had ‘cultural importance’
The court heard the diamond-encrusted Portland Tiara – and an associated brooch – that was stolen in a separate raid had a combined value of £3.75m.
The 6th Duke of Portland had commissioned Cartier to create the Portland Tiara for his wife, Winifred, Duchess of Portland. She wore the headpiece, whose centrepiece is the Portland Diamond, to the coronation of King Edward VII, the Queen’s great-grandfather, in 1902.
Mr Brady said: “It is difficult to overstate the importance and cultural value of these pieces of jewellery.
“Other works of art that formed part of the same collection included masterpieces by Michelangelo, van Dyck, Stubbs and a pearl earring worn by Charles I at his execution.
“These were trophy pieces of the gallery’s exhibition – extremely valuable, unique and of significant historical importance. They were displayed for the public’s enjoyment. Their theft is a shocking event and means that they will never again be seen in their original state.
“It is self-evident that burglaries of this nature require detailed and careful planning, including consideration of how to dispose of such unique pieces.”
Cumberpatch, his partner Kelly Duong, MacDonald, Dilks, and fellow defendants Matthew Johnson and Adrian Eddishaw are all accused of conspiracy to burgle in relation to the theft of the tiara.
The defendants deny all charges.
The trial continues.