Two men have been jailed for robbing Olympic cyclist Mark Cavendish and his wife Peta of watches worth £700,000 in a knifepoint raid which they say “turned a loving family home into a constant reminder of threat and fear”.
Balaclava-wearing intruders broke into Cavendish’s home in Ongar, Essex, as he slept upstairs with his wife Peta, the trial at Chelmsford Crown Court was told.
Mrs Cavendish, fighting back tears at Tuesday’s sentencing, said the robbery in November 2021 had left them considering selling their home due to the “continuing fear”.
Reading her victim personal statement from the witness box, she said they “could potentially sell the property due to the continuing fear”, but in the current economic climate this could cause “considerable loss”.
She told the trial she covered her three-year-old child, who was in a bed with her, with a duvet so that they could not see what was happening.
Two Richard Mille watches, valued at £400,000 and £300,000, were among the items taken in the raid at around 2.30am on 27 November 2021.
Romario Henry, 31, of Lewisham, south-east London, was convicted of two counts of robbery at Chelmsford Crown Court. He was jailed for 15 years.
Ali Sesay, 28, of Holding Street, Rainham, Kent, admitted two counts of robbery at an earlier hearing. He was jailed for 12 years for robbery and a further eight years for six unrelated firearms offences, making a total of 20 years.
Judge David Turner KC told the defendants as he sentenced them: “There can be few more terrifying experiences for any householder than to find themselves at home with their children at 2.30am on the landing and in the bedroom with group of balaclava-wearing, armed criminals who had broken in downstairs and were determined to use force to take property from their home.
“This was serious organised crime, no run-of-the-mill domestic burglary. This was planned, targeted, orchestrated, and ruthless offending aimed at an international sportsman and his wife.”
Tour de France rider Cavendish, who is originally from the Isle of Man, said the psychological trauma of the robbery had left him afraid for his family, and pushed his recovery from injury back.
"The idea of it happening to anyone else is horrifying," Cavendish told Chelmsford Crown Court in a statement.
The trial was previously told that Sesay's DNA was found on Mrs Cavendish’s phone, which was taken and found outside the property.
Mrs Cavendish had told jurors she had heard a noise that woke her in the night and went downstairs to investigate.
She said she could see “men’s figures in balaclavas, and they were running towards the bottom of the stairs".
She said that she ran back to the bedroom shouting “get back” or “get in” to her husband, who was unable to activate a panic alarm.
She told the trial that one of the intruders “dragged” Cavendish “from his feet and started punching him”.
Mrs Cavendish said that at the time her husband had been “out of hospital for four days maybe” following a cycling crash which left him with three broken ribs and a tear to his left lung.
She said that when she went downstairs after the intruders had left, she saw that a patio door was smashed, and Cavendish cut his feet on the broken glass.
Edward Renvoize, prosecuting, said Henry had a previous conviction for supplying drugs in 2012, and for perverting the course of justice in 2013 by “assisting in burning out a vehicle that had been used in a murder as part of a gang enterprise”.
Archangelo Power, for Henry, said the defendant’s brother had been murdered three and a half months before the robbery and that had a “significant bearing on the psychological make-up of the defendant”.
Mr Renvoize said that Sesay had admitted at an earlier hearing to six unrelated firearms offences over the possession of two guns and ammunition, when he had been prohibited by a previous sentence from possessing such items.
Graeme Molloy, for Sesay, said the defendant was “truly sorry for his role” in the robbery and had admitted his involvement.
Jurors were told that two other men, Jo Jobson, from Plaistow, east London, and George Goddard, from Loughton in Essex, have been named as suspects in the robbery but have not been apprehended.
Jobson was 25 and Goddard 26 at the time of a police appeal last March.
Oludewa Okorosobo, 28, of Flaxman Road, Camberwell, south London, denied two counts of robbery and was cleared by jurors after a trial.
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