A thief who stole $43 million in diamonds from a Formula 1 heiress’ London home was caught by an explicit photo, a bombshell documentary has revealed.
Tamara Ecclestone — the billionaire socialite daughter of Formula 1 tycoon Bernie Ecclestone — was targeted by a gang of audacious robbers while living on the exclusive London street referred to as “Billionaire’s Row”, The Sun reports.
Jugoslav Jovanovic, Alessandro Maltese and Alessandro Donati also targeted the home of ex-Chelsea manager Frank Lampard and his wife Christine, and a property owned by deceased Leicester City owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha as part of Britain’s biggest-ever burglary spree.
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The trio were handed jail sentences in November — almost a year after the audacious raid at Ecclestone’s $120 million Hyde Park mansion.
A BBC documentary has now explored how police caught three of the burglary gang after a baffling investigation.
Maltese and Donati were each sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison. Jovanovic, who additionally admitted money laundering, received an 11-year sentence.
A fourth member of the gang, Daniel Vukovic, 44, is still be hunted by cops and is feared to be in his native Serbia.
Ecclestone reveals in the documentary she still will never feel safe at home until the final culprit is behind bars.
“Definitely our lives will never be the same because there’s just now always worry, there’s worry about the one thing I didn’t worry about which was being safe in this house,” she said.
“I worried about so many other scenarios, so many other situations.”
The 38-year-old was targeted after she posted on social media about a family holiday to Lapland with husband Jay Rutland and daughter Sophia.
That night, grainy footage showed the burglars sneaking into the model’s back garden and hiding behind Sophia’s play house.
One of Ecclestone’s round-the-clock security guards had popped to a supermarket to buy chicken for dinner as the men vaulted fences and ran through gardens to reach the lavish home.
After climbing through a window, the raiders wrenched open every door of the 57-room mansion with a crowbar and ransacked the home searching for jewels.
A security guard eventually found the men rifling through Tamara’s dressing room but they managed to flee in a cloud of Christmas decorations with £26 million in diamonds and cash.
Detectives launched a probe but all they had to go on was the shadowy CCTV of the thieves entering the garden.
Amazingly, the eagle-eyed officers noticed a black cab in the background that had dropped the burglars off.
They set about speaking to the 1,007 licensed taxis that had been in the area at the time of the burglary – finding the right cab on the 1,004th attempt.
Driver Terry told cops he dropped the trio off at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane in the heart of London’s West End.
Armed with the Ecclestone’s bags, the gang were then seen on CCTV hopping into another taxi where they were taken to St Mary Cray in South East London.
Desperate for a breakthrough, Detective Thomas Grimshaw decided to pop into budget hotel TLK Apartments on a hunch.
It was there the officer got the crack in the case he needed in the form of an explicit photo.
It emerged the hotel had supplied an phone number for guests to use late at night in case of an emergency.
But one of the brazen thieves did the “typical creepy guy thing” and sent an explicit photo of his privates to the phone, the documentary says.
The receptionist then blocked the number and saved it on the iPhone as “weirdo”.
Grimshaw says: “Once I knew this, I felt like we’d identified the right group of people.”
Armed with the thief’s number, police were able to track his phone and discover his identity.
They also found Jugoslav Jovanovic had dozily used his own ID card to check into the room.
Flight logs showed the Italian national arrived in the UK on November 30 and left on December 18 – five days after the raid.
After discovering how long he had been in the country, they widened their search to see if Jovanovic could be behind any more high-profile burglaries that had blighted Britain’s elite.
Shockingly, CCTV from a raid on Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha’s home revealed Jovanovic’s uncovered face.
He was also spotted in footage from the burglary at the Lampard’s home where more than £60,000 worth of watches, cufflinks and bracelets had been taken.
Jovanovic’s web of crime soon began to unravel as the net closed in on him and his accomplices.
Through extensive police work and an international manhunt, Maltese and Donati were also found to be behind the celeb raids.
All three were extradited from Italy and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle between November 29 and December 18, 2019.
Jovanovic also admitted conspiracy to commit money laundering between December 10 2019 and January 31 last year, and one count of attempting to convert criminal property.
Speaking about the effect of the raid on her, Tamara tells the show: “They are disgusting. I just finding it sickening that people are such low lives.
“Having seen their faces, it’s kind of haunting in a way.
“Knowing that kind of person has been roaming around your house and helping themselves freely to my most treasured, valuable possessions is just a horrible feeling.”
— This story originally appeared on thesun.co.uk and has been republished with permission