'Ruthless' gang member who threatened to cut off Ashley Cole's fingers during break-in jailed for 30 years

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A man who broke in to the home of former England footballer Ashley Cole with a sledgehammer and threatened to cut off his fingers has been jailed for 30 years.

Kurtis Dilks, 35, was part of a gang that smashed into Cole's house wearing masks in January 2020.

Dilks was sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court after the judge described them as "intelligent, violent and chillingly ruthless men".

The former England footballer told police he "knew" he was going to die as they tied his hands behind his back despite him holding his young daughter.

Cole told officers: "I was on my knees, waiting to be killed."

He said in a statement read in court: "The terror and confusion on my children's face is something that will never leave me.

"These images and thoughts will never, ever leave my mind and can pop up any time."

The break-in happened after the former Chelsea player returned to his Surrey house after working with the club's under-15s team.

He told police: "As soon as I put Netflix on, literally 10 to 15 seconds after that, I heard like a banging sound.

"I could hear it was like outside of my bedroom, just to the left, coming through the window.

"The banging was vibrating up the walls into my bedroom. I literally looked at Sharon… and I said, 'what's that?'"

He said he looked at the cameras on his phone to see if he could identify the intruders.

"I could see they were carrying a ladder towards my balcony," Cole said.

Sharon Canu, Cole's partner, said she tried to hide in a wardrobe with her son while her husband was tied up and her daughter pleaded for comfort.

She said in a personal statement that the ordeal "will never leave me".

Cole has invested hugely in security at his home to the point it "feel like a fortress", but said he still cannot go to the bin without a torch and his guard dog.

Judge James Sampson praised the "courage and resilience" of the couple, as well as all the other victims of the gang.

He told Dilks: "The psychological impact on Mr Cole and Ms Canu, as with all of your victims, cannot be overstated."

Dilks was the only one of the gang to be caught after his DNA was recovered on the cable ties used to restrain Cole and his partner.

He was convicted alongside five others for a series of "ruthlessly executed" robberies and burglaries between October 2018 and January 2020.

Dilks was also found guilty of conspiring to rob the wife of former Tottenham, Hull and Derby midfielder Tom Huddlestone in May 2019 with fellow defendants Ashley Cumberpatch and Andrew MacDonald.

The three men were also convicted of being involved in the theft of a £3.5m tiara from the Welbeck Estate in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, in 2018.

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