Two men have been jailed for robbing Olympic cyclist Mark Cavendish and his wife Peta of high-value watches in a knifepoint raid which has left them considering selling their home due to the “continuing fear”.
Intruders in balaclavas broke into Cavendish's house as he and his wife were upstairs sleeping, according to testimony given during a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court.
Romario Henry, 31, of Bell Green, Lewisham, south-east London, denied two counts of robbery but was found guilty after an earlier trial and sentenced on Tuesday to 15 years in prison. Ali Sesay, 28, of Holding Street, Rainham, Kent, admitted two counts of robbery and was jailed for 12 years.
Here is everything you need to know about it.
In testimony given during a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court earlier this month, barrister Edward Renvoize said Cavendish believed noise he had heard downstairs to be “male voices and people walking around in the house”. Mrs Cavendish went to examine what they had heard as her husband was at the time recovering from a variety of injuries.
“She was next aware of figures of people running towards her,” said the barrister. “She ran back up the stairs shouting for her husband to get back into the bedroom.”
Renvoize said that Cavendish looked for a "panic alarm that he had” after his wife returned to the bedroom. Some of the attackers then "jumped on" Cavendish, and “began punching him and telling him to turn the alarm off”.
The prosecutor said one of the assailants “produced a knife and threatened to stab him up in front of his children.”
“At this point there were three in the room and they began asking where the watches were,” continued Renvoize. “There was a safe in the room and he was ordered to open it. When he tried the battery appeared to have gone dead.
“He said there was nothing in it anyway as the couple had been burgled the year before and everything had been taken. He was repeatedly asked where the other safe was.”
Renvoize said Cavendish told the intruders there was no other safe, adding that during this time, Mrs Cavendish “was looking after her three-year-old child“ and keeping her son “under the duvet to prevent him seeing the ordeal in the bedroom.”
The prosecutor said Peta “tried to use her phone to call the police”, but an intruder “grabbed the phone”.
What was taken?
During the raid in the Ongar area of Essex, the burglars made off with two Richard Mille watches, worth £400,000 and £300,000 respectively, Chelmsford Crown Court heard. Renvoize said Peta was “asked for the watch” and Cavendish “pointed to his watch on the windowsill”.
“One of the intruders said ‘that’s not it’,” said the prosecutor, who added that it was a Richard Mille watch valued at £400,000. He said that Peta’s watch, also a Richard Mille and valued at £300,000, was also taken.
Peta Cavendish recalled one of the intruders coming into the bedroom with a Louis Vuitton suitcase, the prosecutor said.
Prior to the raid, cars were seen on CCTV driving past the house on what Renvoize described as "a reconnaissance mission" of the semi-rural area in Ongar, Essex. He said that after one car arrived and turned off the lights, "four individuals" were shown on camera moving closer to the home. The defendants are suspected of taking a watch, phone and safe from Cavendish, and of robbing the athlete’s wife of a watch, phone and suitcase.
Who is Peta Cavendish?
In October 2013, Cavendish married Peta Todd in London, making him stepfather to her son Finnbar (born 2006) from a previous relationship. Cavendish and his wife have four children together: Delilah, Frey, Casper, and Astrid.
Peta Cavendish is a former glamour model, who first appeared on The Sun’s Page 3 when she was 18 years old. For the Help for Heroes charity, of which she is the official pin-up and patron, she rode 400 miles in five days in 2008, generating more than £3,000 through sponsorship and another £4,000 by auctioning off her bike and cycling shorts on the last day of her ride.
She has completed many other challenges for Help For Heroes, including skydives, wing walks and bobsleighing. Cavendish has participated in debates at the Oxford Union and other universities to discuss whether the 40th anniversary of Page 3 should be observed, and in 2010, she spoke on BBC Newsnight to argue the benefits of 40 years of Page 3.
What is Mark Cavendish’s net worth?
According to Celebrity Net Worth, Mark Cavendish has a net worth of around $10 million (£8.3 million).
Cavendish has said his real home will always be on the Isle of Man, where he was born, but he also owns two other properties: the residence in Ongar, Essex, and Quarrata, Tuscany, where he maintains a cycling training base.
Cavendish is considered to be the greatest sprinter in the history of road cycling, having won 34 Tour de France stages, 16 Giro d’Italia stages, and three Vuelta a Espana stages - as well as the point classification in all three grand tours. He’s also won the road cycling World Championships and the prestigious Milan-San Remo one-day race, as well as an Olympic silver medal and the BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 2011.