Lampard woke to hear thieves taking Mercedes, court is told

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The Independent Online

More than £200,000 of property was stolen from his £4m Chelsea home by burglars who daubed anti-Chelsea graffiti on his walls, Blackfriars Crown Court was told yesterday.

When the 27-year-old midfielder woke up on18 May, he found his Mercedes had gone, along with his Aston Martin DB9 sports car. The cars are collectively worth £195,000.

The slogan "FFC Forever" used by supporters of rival west London club Fulham, was written on his walls in black ink.

In a statement read to the jury by the prosecutor, Caroline Haughey, Mr Lampard said he had been asleep with his fiancee when the "roar" of the Mercedes Jeep engine woke him at 4.30am.

He also said he had missed a call on his mobile phone at 4am, but the number was withheld. James Gould, age 26, from south London, denies burgling Mr Lampard's home, two counts of theft and conspiracy to commit burglary.

A £2,000 Panasonic television, a £5,000 stereo, two laptop computers, a wallet and two pairs of football boots were also taken.

The Aston Martin was discovered at about 5am in Chelsea, while the Mercedes jeep was spotted by a police officer south of Battersea Bridge with the TV on the back seat, the jury was told.

Mr Gould was allegedly seen getting out of a white van that pulled up beside the Jeep, taking a large cardboard box full of property from the stolen vehicle, and putting it on the ground.

The court heard the defence accepts the man who picked up the box was James Gould. All the stolen goods were later recovered except for the two pairs of football boots.

Mr Gould told the jury that on the morning of 18 May he was wandering the streets of south-west London hunting for unlocked cars from which to steal cash and property.

He said after raiding a BMW for loose change in Knightsbridge he stumbled across Lampard's Mercedes Jeep south of Battersea Bridge between 4.10am and 4.20am. "I walked straight up to the vehicle and tried the handle and the door opened," he said.

Mr Gould said he noticed the key was in the ignition, and discovered the television in a box in the back of the car. "I thought about driving [the Jeep] away but had second thoughts."

When the defendant returned from a phone box, where he had called a friend to ask him to come and collect him and the box, he realised he was being watched and fled, the court heard.

Mr Gould said he was "pretty relieved" when he realised the police had caught him rather than an irate owner. "It could have got a bit nasty."

The defendant told his counsel, Michael Epstein, that he did not know carried out the burglary. He also denied any involvement in the raid on the house, and insisted he had not driven either of the stolen vehicles.

The hearing was adjourned until today, when closing speeches will begin.