'Wimbledon Prowler' who stole £500,000-worth of loot from affluent London homes unmasked as Kosovan chip shop owner
A prolific thief dubbed the “Wimbledon prowler” has admitted to a spree of house burglaries spanning more than a decade.
The married father-of-two, who owns a fish and chip shop, would drive down to the capital to carry out his break-ins at night.
He stole £542,000 worth of goods – with jewellery worth £371,855 taken during a single raid in February 2017.
The 42-year-old Kosovan Serb pleaded guilty to 21 counts of burglary, two counts of attempted burglary and a further count of going equipped for burglary when he appeared at Kingston Crown Court.
The string of burglaries he admitted to started in July 2008 and came to a head in February this year when he was finally arrested in London.
His haul over the period included a diamond ring and a gold necklace, as well as thousands of pounds in cash.
Judge Peter Lodder QC described the housebreaker as having “identified a particular area and conducted a sustained campaign”.
Kapaj had been suspected of trying to raid the home of tennis star Boris Becker in the affluent area that is home to the All England Lawn Tennis Club, but that charge was not put to him.
He will be sentenced by 21 June, but prosecutors must first liaise with three remaining alleged victims, including Mr Becker, who was said to have been struck by a failed attempt in October 2013.
Prosecutor Alexandra Boshell said much of the evidence comes from automatic number plate recognition technology tracking his car coming down from Altrincham to Wimbledon.
Scotland Yard previously linked the Wimbledon prowler to 200 burglaries. But the number of crimes brought by the prosecution did not amount to such a total.
Captured by security cameras wearing a fisherman’s hat on several of his raids, the prowler was accused of meticulously destroying security equipment on most of his burglaries.
But when he was finally arrested on 22 February, that trademark hat appeared to have been ditched and instead he was caught with a snood, a pair of gloves and a torch.
He was also said to have been disturbed and almost caught by householders several times. On one occasion, he was reportedly chased across a garden by French footballer Nicolas Anelka.
A group of Wimbledon Village residents, including 81-year-old victim Philippa Beck, were in court to hear his guilty pleas.
Ms Beck said she was struck by “blank amazement” when she learned that the burglar was making a nearly 500-mile round trip to target her area.
Laurie Porter, chairwoman of the Wimbledon Village Safer Neighbourhood Panel, said residents are “sleeping more easily” now the man “creeping around our gardens and our streets” is in custody.
“I’m thrilled we don’t have to worry about this man wandering the streets of Wimbledon Village for the foreseeable future,” she added.
Additional reporting by PA