Ecclestone burglary plot suspect: I’m a ‘simple escort’, not a thief

Isleworth Crown Court, London
Isleworth Crown Court, London (PA Archive)
16:48pm, Mon 30 Nov 2020
CBAD8A00-D2B9-4E0E-ADDF-D0366C357A34 Created with sketchtool. E9A4AA46-7DC3-48B8-9CE2-D75274FB8967 Created with sketchtool. 65CCAE04-4748-4D0F-8696-A91D8EB3E7DC Created with sketchtool.

A Romanian woman accused of assisting with Britain’s biggest ever domestic burglary plot has told jurors she was a “simple escort”, not a thief.

Maria Mester, 47, denied having any involvement in the £26 million conspiracy, which saw four alleged thieves steal expensive jewellery, property and cash from three celebrity homes in West London during a two-week period last December.

The pinnacle was a £25 million raid on the home of socialite Tamara Ecclestone and her husband Jay Rutland.

Frank and Christine Lampard (PA Archive)

The alleged burglars cannot be named for legal reasons, while Mester, her son Emil Bogdan Savastru, and two other men are accused of being among the “supporting cast” by helping in various ways, rather than carrying out the raids.

The four on trial deny all charges, including conspiracy to burgle, while Mester and Savastru are also charged with money laundering.

Mester gesticulated repeatedly as she told jurors she had nothing to do with the plot.

Under cross-examination from junior prosecutor Paul Jarvis at Isleworth Crown Court on Monday afternoon, she described herself as a “stupid chicken” compared with the “professional” burglars.

Mester said she was in London only because she was paid around £5,000 to work as an escort for one of the alleged burglars, staying in an apartment in Orpington, Bromley, where the raiders were said to have been based.

A man who wants to have fun does not entrust an escort with his life, his personal details, his information

Mr Jarvis asked:  “Why would he (the alleged burglar) want an innocent person to spend the week with him at (the apartment)?”

Mester replied: “He invited me to be his escort, not to participate (in the burglaries).

“I came here as an escort. I didn’t come here to watch them, I didn’t come here to babysit them. It’s not rocket science.

“A man who wants to have fun does not entrust an escort with his life, his personal details, his information.”

She described her and her son as “two victims in this”.

Mr Jarvis said told Mester she was “more than just an escort”, to which the defendant replied: “No, I was a simple escort, please prove to me I wasn’t.”

Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Memorial Garden Opening (PA Archive)

The court heard Mester was arrested in January this year after returning to London, when she was said to be wearing a pair of earrings identical to those stolen in the Ecclestone raid.

Mr Jarvis said: “You were perfectly happy to help plan and commit these burglaries, weren’t you?”

Mester replied: “That’s what you say. Is that the reason why I returned wearing those earrings when I was arrested?

“You’re talking here about professionals, I am just a stupid chicken.”

The court heard that Mester and her client met two of the alleged burglars who arrived in London ahead of the Ecclestone raid.

But she told the trial she did not “ask questions” of them, or even know their names.

One had a terrible look - terribly ugly, like a chimpanzee. Another was a long spear, he looked like the Pink Panther

Speaking with the aid of a translator, Mester said: “I wasn’t interested (in them).

“First of all, one had a terrible look – terribly ugly, like a chimpanzee. Another was a long spear, he looked like the Pink Panther, and their shoes were dirty.

“The first thing I look at about a man is his hands, his nails and the shoes. If they are not clean, the man doesn’t exist for me.”

The trial previously heard three homes were targeted – that of Chelsea FC manager Frank Lampard and his television presenter wife Christine Lampard, then the late Leicester City FC chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and then the Ecclestone home.

Prosecutors say much of the property has never been recovered because it was successfully laundered.

Mester, Savastru, 30, and two other defendants, Alexandru Stan, 49, and Sorin Marcovici, 53, deny all charges.

The trial continues.

Sign up to our newsletter