Michael Winner’s widow tells court she was tied up during robbery

By Jess Glass, PA

The widow of the late film director Michael Winner has told a court that she was tied up and struggled to breathe during a violent robbery in her own home.

Geraldine Winner was robbed of at least £100,000 worth of jewellery, art and cash during the raid on her central London flat on October 9 2015.

She suffered serious head injuries and a broken finger during the three-hour ordeal at her Knightsbridge home.

Gurgana Gueorguieva, 48, admitted one count of robbery of a dwelling in July this year, but claimed that the injuries were accidental and denied taking 20,000 euro during the incident.

Prosecutors did not accept the basis of this plea and Gueorguieva, a personal trainer who lives in Russell Road, Holland Park, returned to Southwark Crown Court on Thursday to settle the dispute.

Michael Winner and wife Geraldine leave Chelsea Registry Office after their wedding in 2011 (PA)

The court heard Mrs Winner was restrained with cable-ties and repeatedly hit after she was attacked while taking the rubbish out, shortly after 10pm.

Mrs Winner told the court via a videolink: “I was pushed back into my flat and my face was put into the counter and I was held down.

“I was told some gibberish I didn’t understand, and I said I didn’t understand, and the person said ‘your sons have sent me to kill you’, she said they wished to inherit.

“I think I was pushed to the ground, I don’t know, then I tried to grab my kettle and hit her with it.

“She got hold of that and hit me on the head. and that’s when I saw stars, and I thought right, I’m stopping now, and that’s when I lay on the floor and then saw blood everywhere.

“She asked me ‘where’s the heart-shaped diamond’, so I told her where the safe was. I would have done anything just to get rid of her.”

Mrs Winner said she was hit between three or four times with the kettle and was later stood on, to stop her from screaming as someone went past her door.

She was blindfolded and restrained with cable ties, keeping her hands behind her back during the robbery.

The court heard Mrs Winner repeatedly told Gueorguieva she was in pain during the ordeal, but received no response.

She said: “When she first pushed me to the floor I said I can’t breathe, which didn’t seem to bother her.

“As she left she said ‘don’t ring the police, otherwise you’ll have to look over your shoulder for the rest of your life’.”

Gueorguieva fled the scene without removing the restraints from Mrs Winner, leaving her to free herself after managing to pick up a pair of scissors from a kitchen drawer.

Mrs Winner suffered several injuries, including three large deep cuts to her head, a broken finger and rib, as well as bruising and swelling from being restrained.

Prosecutor Mark Gadsden said: “The Crown submits that these injuries could not have simply have come about by way of accidental contact or inadvertent contact, was the defence submission, between the kettle and Mrs Winner’s head during the course of a struggle.”

Mr Gadsden added the robbery was executed after two years of “meticulous” planning, which involved repeated trips to Mrs Winner’s home and was intended to cause her emotional pain.

Mrs Winner did not know Gueorguieva, who was seen on CCTV wearing a wig for the attack.

Mr Gadsden said: “She wanted to cause, it would seem, the maximum distress to Mrs Winner for the way for the way she perceived Mrs Winner had treated her.

“Therefore it would seem she had chosen to steal items of sentimental and personal value, as well as items that had obvious financial value.”

The disputed market value of the items stolen ranged between £100,000 and £300,000, but both the prosecution and defence agreed the exact amount would not have an impact on Gueorguieva’s eventual prison sentence.

“It is of course accepted that a number of these items have huge sentimental value as well as financial value,” Mr Gadsden continued.

Mr Winner, who made more than 30 films including the blockbuster Death Wish series, died aged 77 in January 2013.

Gueorguieva said she had been in a relationship with Mr Winner between 1999 and 2002 and “disliked” Mrs Winner.

Patrick Dennis, defending, said: “She was in a relationship with Michael Winner which finished in 2002 or thereabouts and she remained relatively close to him.

“When Michael Winner sadly died around 2013, she came to understand that she would be receiving something from his will.

“She felt that Geraldine Winner had caused that will to be altered which led to the background of this offence.”

All but six pieces of jewellery were recovered, as well as a painting taken from its frame.

However, family photographs and 20,000 euro which Mrs Winner said she had withdrawn for a trip to Paris to visit her sons the next day, were not recovered.

Gueorguieva was caught after trying to sell a watch taken from Mrs Winner’s home to an undercover police officer, and initially denied the robbery.

Mr Gadsden said: “After spending about five hours in the interview process, before she fully admitted to the offence that she was responsible for the robbery.

“She ultimately was to admit that she had planned this matter for a very significant period of time.”

The hearing continues.