Widow of murdered businessman tells court of 'sheer panic' as armed robbers burst into home

Jason Bennetto,Crime Correspondent
Wednesday 23 November 2005 01:00

The widow of John Monckton, a businessman stabbed to death in his Chelsea home, described yesterday how she and her husband tried to stop two armed robbers from pushing their way into their house.

Homeyra Monckton, 46, said both she and her husband cried out "no, no" as the two men, one dressed as a postman, the other wearing a balaclava, forced their way in.

Their nine-year-old daughter was having a bath at the time of the break-in and saw some of the attack, in which Mrs Monckton was stabbed twice in the back and Mr Monckton died.

Mrs Monckton broke down in tears while giving evidence at the Old Bailey trial of Elliot White and Damien Hanson, both 24, who are accused of murdering Mr Monckton, 49, a senior financial director, and attempting to murder Mrs Monckton, on 29 November last year. Both deny the charges.

Mrs Monckton told the jury that on the night of the attack, her husband arrived at their home in west London at about 7pm, while she was bathing their daughter Isobel.

"He came upstairs and said hello and then went to change and then I went downstairs to cook dinner. Isobel was still up, she wanted to see her daddy and play and it all started then."

The doorbell rang at around 7.30 and a man spoke through the door and told Mrs Monckton he had a parcel for her husband. His voice was "calm" and "confident", she recalled.

"I went upstairs to ask John whether he was expecting a parcel," she said.

"I said, 'there is a parcel for you,' and he said 'I'll deal with it' and that I should go to Isobel and play with her."

Mrs Monckton said her husband appeared "very apprehensive" as he came downstairs because he was not expecting a package.

He looked through the spyhole and then, with the security chain on, opened the door.

Mrs Monckton, who remained in the hallway, said she could not see exactly who was outside. But she could see a man holding a parcel and wearing a jacket which she said was like a "Postman Pat outfit".

There was no conversation, and it was then that her husband opened the door and the men burst in.

Her husband repeated "No, no", as he tried to push the door shut. "I was saying 'No, no', I do not know why," she told the court.

She joined him to try to close the door. "But we were not strong enough. One man came in with a balaclava disguise. He came through and stabbed me the first time. He stabbed me almost immediately, without saying anything.

"All I could think about was there was a panic alarm in the bedroom on the first floor and I needed to get up there. I was stabbed as I was going up. The only thing I felt at that moment was sheer panic. I was screaming my head off."

She said she could see her husband below. "I did not know I was stabbed, there was no pain. But I could not feel anything in my legs. I sat down and I could see my husband defending himself. I could see my husband holding his arms high up, holding another man's arms in front of him, above his head away from him.

"I did not say anything. I was stabbed and sat down, I could not move my legs. I watched the man who had attacked me. He took my rings, watch and earrings and money and left me.

"He told me 'Give me your ring and your watch' very calmly, very coldly. I took my two rings off, my earrings off and my watch. I do not remember handing them to him. By then I was bleeding. When he asked for my money I pointed to him where my handbag was.

"I was now focused on my husband. He was struggling and I was thinking that I was dying but he would survive, he looked so strong. He was fighting, still holding the man's wrists.

"I screamed to my husband I had been stabbed. I do not think I said it many times. I think I fainted."

She said she did not know for how long she had been blacked out. She saw the back of the burglars, with a gun and a knife, leaving the house and felt cold air. "I was shouting at my husband, calling his name. He was moaning - he was still alive."

Asked whether one of the robbers had appeared at all reluctant, she replied: "No, not at all. They destroyed our lives."

The couple's daughter, Isobel, who gave evidence via a pre-recordedinterview, described how she watched through the banisters on the top floor and saw her parents lying below.

She said: "I heard my mummy screaming."

Her mother had cried "Help, Issie", she said. Isobel said her mother had also been screaming for her father, calling his name.

She told her police interviewers: "Mummy and Daddy answered [the door] it and they got stabbed. I saw blood everywhere.

Isobel described how after the robbers left, "mummy called for me" and so she ran down to her.

Isobel said she heard "running in the street" outside, which sounded fast.

Mrs Monckton got her daughter to close the door and put the security chain back on. She then followed her mother's instructions and made a 999 call to police.

The court heard the robbers stole two rings worth about £700 each, and costume jewellery earrings. Mrs Monckton's watch was worth £2,500.

The jury has been told that Mr White, who posed as the postman, was wounded, and left blood at the scene. As a result of DNA evidence he pleaded guilty to robbery, but denies murder, the court heard.

The trial continues.

Alleged killer had been freed early from 12-year jail sentence

One of the men accused of stabbing John Monckton to death and attempting to murder his wife was freed under an early release scheme from a jail sentence for attempted murder and robbery only three months before the raid on the financier's home in Chelsea.

Damien Hanson, 24, who denies murder, attempted murder and robbery, has a long criminal history and has fabricated alibis in the past, the court was told.

The other defendant in the case, Elliot White, has pleaded guilty to being one of the two robbers, but denies murder and attempted murder.

Details of Mr Hanson's allegedly bad character were given in court under a law that allows the prosecution to tell a jury about a defendant's criminal history if it is relevant.

Richard Horwell, for the prosecution, said: "It is relevant when you consider the principal feature in this case, namely was he the other robber? He says he was not. We say the evidence not only suggests he was the robber but his bad character indicates that fact as well."

He argued that Mr Hanson had lied about alibis in the past and was attempting to fabricate one for this case.

Mr Horwell listed Mr Hanson's previous convictions to the jury. At the age of 14 - in July 1995 - he burgled a home. In November of the same year Mr Hanson robbed a 17-year-old at knifepoint. The victim was robbed of £20 and was kicked and stabbed by Mr Hanson. Mr Hanson used an alibi as his defence, saying he was visiting friends in east London at the time. But he was identified by the victim and was convicted of wounding.

In June 1996 he tried to burgle a home. In 1997 he robbed a young man of a Rolex watch. Mr Horwell said Mr Hanson had an accomplice and between them they had a firearm and a butcher's knife. When the victim tried to escape, he was shot three times by the other man. In this case, Mr Hanson raised another alibi as his defence. He was found guilty of attempted murder and robbery and sentenced to 12 years.

Copies of The Sunday Times's "Rich List" and The Mail on Sunday's "Rich Report" were found together with cuttings about wealthy City traders at Mr Hanson's home, the Old Bailey was also told.

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