A burglar who stole jewellery from the £32m home of Petra Ecclestone while posing as a wealthy Russian buyer has been jailed for eight years for a string of similar burglaries at upmarket homes in London and the Home Counties.
William Flynn, 36, stole a diamond-encrusted Rolex watch and diamond earrings worth a total of £450,000 belonging to the daughter of the head of Formula One, Bernie Ecclestone, after tricking an estate agent into leaving him alone inside a room holding jewellery.
Ms Ecclestone was not at the house in London’s Eaton Square when Flynn twice turned up for a viewing in a chauffeur-driven car posing as an oligarch and calling himself Oleg Duchenko.
Flynn, who never removed his sunglasses during the visits, said that he wanted to buy a house that was suitable for his wife.
On the second occasion, he told the agent that he wanted to make a private telephone call to his wife and snatched the items from a second-floor jewellery room while he was alone.
Ms Ecclestone, 25, said that her family had been left traumatised by the crime, according to a victim impact statement read to the court. The items have never been found.
She had been staying in London with her husband James, and daughter Lavinia, and put the house on the market in June.
It later emerged that Flynn was a career criminal with a similar modus operandi and had targeted 31 homes across the capital, the court heard.
Sentencing Flynn on Thursday, Judge Owen-Jones said: “These were very sophisticated and well-planned burglaries committed all in the same way using a deceptive method. It was a skilful artifice and in the course of being taken round, either by distracting the individual concerned or by going into a room alone, you stole.”
Flynn, a father-of-four from Barnet, north London, targeted homes on the market with a price of more than a million pounds, Basildon Crown Court was told.
The court was told he stole items worth £803,140 during his crime spree, which started in August 2012 after he was released from prison for similar crimes. He claims that he was forced into the high-end burglaries because he owed tens of thousands of pounds to a gang of touts who had given him Premier League match tickets to sell.
In a statement read to the court, Petra Ecclestone’s personal assistant Emebet Shefiran said: “My boss is very upset and distressed by the intrusion into her home by a stranger.
“She is still distressed over this and the family are still traumatised over this. The watch that was stolen was of extremely sentimental value and was a gift from her husband on a special occasion – this can never be replaced.”
She said that the incident has caused the family disruption, stress, a lack of sleep, and led to “issues” with staff over the security problems.
“This has had a devastating lasting impact on all concerned – the family now spend far less time in the house in which the incident happened,” she said.