How Tamara Ecclestone’s diamond case was cracked

The first person arrested was Savastru. Police had observed his movements and knew he had booked a one-way ticket to Tokyo on January 30, 2020.

On the day he checked in at Heathrow Airport, plainclothes officers followed him out of the terminal, where he sat down to smoke a cigarette.

As Savastru sat down, detectives waited for him to open his phone – this would allow them to look through his search history, contacts and banking information. As soon as he did so, they made their move and arrested him, successfully confiscating his opened phone.

He was carrying a Jay Rutland Louis Vuitton bag and a Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha Tag Heuer watch.

He later told a jury that he felt the items had been given to him as a gift. He had no idea they were stolen.

After hearing of her son’s arrest, Mester flew back to Britain from Milan the following day. She was immediately arrested at Stansted Airport while wearing a pair of earrings similar to those worn by Tamara Ecclestone. It wasn’t certain they were the exact same earrings, but the designer who made them said only three pairs had been made so far and one was sold to Tamara.

Facebook pictures of Mester showed she had been wearing a necklace similar to a rare bespoke one Jay Rutland bought for his wife in Los Angeles.

She would tell a court the jewelry was a gift and denied knowing they had been stolen.

Savastru and Mester were charged, and while they were in custody, police uncovered more information about the thieves’ time in London.

The day after the raid on Mr Srivaddhanaprabha’s home, Jovanovic booked into a sushi restaurant near Harrods for five. The bill for the meal was £760.

They were also pictured on a spending spree in Harrods. On December 17, four days after the burglary at Ecclestone’s home, Savastru opened an account with Harrods Rewards and spent £580 on Christian Dior cosmetics. His mother spent more than £1,000 on Louis Vuitton and Loro Piana menswear, £810 on Hermes goods and £635 on designer shoes.

Jovanovic and Vukovic were also pictured in Harrods – it was revealed they had been refused purchases of £8,000 worth of goods because they only wanted to pay in cash.

It also emerged that Savastru had used his bank card to pay for an Airbnb in Chelsea where Jovanovic, Vukovic, Maltese and Donati were staying for a few days after the Ecclestone raid before leaving the country. Savastru had also booked most of the flights on his Starling Bank account.

In November 2020, Marcovici, Stan, Savastru and Mester were tried at Isleworth Crown Court on conspiracy to commit burglary.

Mester’s defense was that she was an international escort and had met Vukovic years earlier as a customer in a bar in Milan. In December 2019, she says, he asked her to accompany him to London and paid her thousands of euros. Mester said she had no idea Vukovic or the men he was with were committing high-value burglaries.

The jewelry found by police when she was arrested were gifts from Vukovic for her services and for her birthday, she said. She denied knowing about the theft of the jewelry.

“For me, Vukovic was like a golden goose like any other generous customer,” she told the BBC. “I saw nothing wrong with that fool!”

She also said that Vukovic gave her money to spend while she was in London.

After her acquittal, she said, “I am 100% innocent of these thefts.” She said police never proved her or her son guilty.

“They only brought to court what they wanted.”

Her son Savastru told jurors during the trial that he was introduced to two of the alleged burglars in December 2019 but was unaware of their alleged criminal activities. He declined an interview with the BBC.

Stan told the court he had been asked by a friend to help some Italians who were new to London and needed help with a car and getting around. He had met them for coffee and exchanged numbers.

Later, on December 1, he received a phone call asking for his address. On the night Lampard’s was broken into, Jovanovic and Vukovic had arrived at his home – although he insisted he hadn’t known what they were up to. One of them was circumcised and told Stan they didn’t want their wives to see they had fought, so he gave them some clothes and booked them an Uber back to St Mary Cray.

“Everything, all the evidence against me shows that I could not have been involved. Couldn’t,” Stan told the BBC.

Marcovici, a childhood friend of Maria Mester, claimed he was an innocent man involved in something he had no idea about. He had agreed to her request to drive Vukovic’s friends around West London. But he says he was told the men were going to a construction site to get tools.

He says he misunderstood a text in Italian telling him to bring a cutting or blowtorch – cannello da taglio – with the Romanian Agnello of Taglio or “cutting up the lamb”, and that he interpreted this as an allusion to a barbecue.

He stopped driving the men around arguing about pay.

“I have been accused of conspiring to break into high profile people from Britain. High society people. I’m innocent and the police [knew] I was innocent from the start.”

None of the four are said to have been present at the homes that were broken into, but prosecutors argued that they allegedly helped the gang in some way.

However, in January 2021, the four were found not guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

Out of the blue, Stan – who had been living in Harrow – contacted the BBC to share his story.

He told reporters he is now homeless and has lost everything. He ended up in Marcovici’s car during the “Beast from the East” winter storms of 2021.

“I lost everything, my home, my job,” he said. “My whole life has been turned upside down.”

Police took Mester and her son Savastru to court over other matters. Mester was convicted of not letting police into her phone, while Savastru was convicted of an unrelated charge of possession of counterfeit banknotes.

And finally, the investigators were able to bring back three of the burglars who had fled abroad. Donati and Maltese were arrested in Milan and later extradited in the fall of 2020. Jovanovic was arrested in October 2020 on the Italian coast of Santa Marinella – just outside Rome. He fought hard to avoid extradition but was later deported to the UK in April 2021.

All three pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit burglary and were detained under heavy police escort from Belmarsh in November 2021.

Police in Italy told the BBC the gang had been living in a Roma camp north of Milan.

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