A man has been found guilty of robbing Olympic cyclist Mark Cavendish and his wife Peta of high-value watches in a raid where a Rambo knife was held to the athlete’s throat.
Balaclava-wearing intruders broke into Cavendish’s home as he slept upstairs with his wife Peta at their home in Ongar in Essex, a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court was told.
Mrs Cavendish said she had covered her three-year-old child, who was also in the bed, with the 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 November 27, 2021.
Romario Henry, 31, of Bell Green, Lewisham, south-east London denied two counts of robbery but was found guilty on both counts by a majority verdict of 10 jurors to two following 14 hours and 35 minutes of deliberation.
His co-defendant Oludewa Okorosobo, 28, of Flaxman Road, Camberwell, south London, denied two counts of robbery and was cleared by the jury.
Okorosobo, who held his head in his hands as he was found not guilty, had told jurors that he was stabbed in the leg on September 16 2021, months before the robbery.
He said in a prepared statement to police in December 2021 that he was “unable to do any” of the alleged offences, and that “any human could see I’m incapable of doing this”.
He said that he had loaned his mobile phone, which connected with cell masts in the Ongar area on the night, to a man who has admitted robbery.
Okorosobo said that he did not go to the Cavendish address and was not with his phone, but had let Ali Sesay borrow it to use a navigation app.
Henry, who showed no visible reaction as he was convicted, will be sentenced on February 7 along with Sesay, of Holding Street, Rainham, Kent, who admitted two counts of robbery at an earlier hearing.
The trial was told that 28-year-old Sesay’s DNA was found on the phone of Peta Cavendish, which was taken and found outside the property.
In a statement released through police after the trial, Cavendish and his wife said: “Reliving our family’s experience from that night in November 2021 has been an incredibly difficult experience.
“What happened that night is something that no family should ever have to go through.
“Although nothing can ever erase what our family went through, there is now some comfort that two men who broke into our family home and stole from us, assaulted Mark and terrified our children are now convicted and will be facing what we hope will be an appropriate sentence for their actions, and we hope moves some steps in preventing this horror happening to another innocent family.”
The charges were that the accused men robbed Cavendish of a watch, phone and safe, and robbed the athlete’s wife of a watch, phone and suitcase.
Mrs Cavendish, who like her husband was naked during the robbery, 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”, and that she believed there were “between three and five” people.
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”.
One had her husband in a headlock, she said, adding: “One of them held a large black knife to his throat and they said ‘where’s the watches’ and ‘do you want me to stab you?’”
She agreed with a suggestion that it was a Rambo-style knife, and in his evidence Cavendish said it “wasn’t a knife you have in a kitchen”.
“It was black and had holes in it, he said, adding: “It was a weapon.”
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 smashed glass.
Jurors were told that two further men, Jo Jobson, from Plaistow, east London, and George Goddard, from Loughton in Essex, have been named as suspects in the case but have not been apprehended.
Jobson was 25 and Goddard 26 at the time of a police appeal last March.
Outside court, Detective Inspector Tony Atkin of Essex Police made an appeal to camera for Jobson and Goddard to hand themselves in, adding: “You can only hide for so long.”
He said: “Although I can’t go into significant detail, we are following a number of lines of inquiry in order to locate them.
“The actions we believe they are responsible for cannot go unpunished.”