The wife of Olympic cyclist Mark Cavendish has said that her family were left in “terror” by a knifepoint robbery at their home and that the impact continues to this day.
Peta Cavendish, speaking outside Chelmsford Crown Court where two of the robbers were jailed on Tuesday, said it was not about the two watches worth a total of £700,000 that were stolen.
“For us this has never been about the items that were taken on that night,” she said.
“It was about the terror that our family felt.
“The impact continues on to this day for our family.”
She said that the raiders came to their home in Ongar, Essex, “where a young family was asleep”, at around 2.30am on November 27 2021.
“They broke in in the middle of the night in balaclavas and threatened us,” she said.
“They assaulted my husband Mark and they terrified our young children.
“At the time I was in the early stages of pregnancy and the incident of course has had a massive impact on what should have been an incredibly happy time for us as a family.”
She said that her husband, who was not at court, was “away racing” but that she wanted to attend to read her victim impact statement to the judge.
Fighting back tears in the witness box, she said the robbery had “turned a loving family home into a constant reminder of threat and fear”.
She told the judge that they “could potentially sell the property due to the continuing fear” but in the current economic climate this could cause “considerable loss”.
Speaking outside court, she said: “Part of the reason I’m speaking today is to show we’re moving forward as a family.
“We still have very difficult times as I’m sure you can imagine, especially the children, but we’re continuing to build our life together.
“No family should ever go through what we went through and I’m glad that two of the people have been sent to jail today for significant periods of time.
“But no matter what the sentence was, any parent will understand I’m sure that no time in prison can make up for what they did to us that night.”
Mrs Cavendish told the trial that she covered her three-year-old child, who was in a bed with her, with a 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.
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.
Judge David Turner KC, sentencing the two men, said: “This was serious organised crime. This was no run-of-the-mill domestic burglary by opportunist amateurs.
“This was planned, targeted, orchestrated, ruthless offending aimed at an internationally known sportsman and his wife who happened to be brand ambassadors for exceptionally valuable Richard Mille watches.”
The trial was told that Sesay’s DNA was found on Mrs Cavendish’s phone, which was taken and found outside the property.
The charges were that the accused men robbed Cavendish of a watch, phone and safe, and robbed his wife of a watch, phone and suitcase.
Mrs Cavendish, who like her husband was naked during the robbery, 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 told the court she ran back to the bedroom, shouting “get back” or “get in” to her husband, who was unable to activate a panic alarm.
Mrs Cavendish said 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.
Mrs Cavendish said that at the time her husband had been “out of hospital for four days, maybe” after a cycling crash which left him with three broken ribs and a tear to his left lung.
The athlete suffered the injuries during the Ghent Six Day track event in Belgium, and spent a night in intensive care after leaving the velodrome on a stretcher.
Archangelo Power, for Henry, said the defendant’s brother had been murdered three-and-a-half months before the robbery and that had a “significant bearing on the psychological make-up of the defendant”.
Edward Renvoize, prosecuting, said that Sesay had admitted at an earlier hearing to six unrelated firearms offences over the possession of two guns and ammunition, when he had been prohibited by a previous sentence from possessing such items.
The prosecutor said Sesay was arrested at an address in Thornton Heath, south London, on December 16 2021 and officers “had to use a chainsaw to gain access” and they saw items, later found to be firearms, being thrown from a window to a neighbouring garden.
The judge jailed Sesay for eight years for the firearms offences, consecutive to the 12-year prison sentence for the robbery, making a total of 20 years.
Graeme Molloy, for Sesay, said the defendant was “truly sorry for his role” in the robbery and had admitted his involvement.
Speaking about the firearms offences, Mr Molloy said Sesay claimed the guns were not his but that he had thrown them from the window.
Jurors were told that two other men, Jo Jobson, from Plaistow, east London, and George Goddard, from Loughton in Essex, have been named as suspects in the robbery but have not been apprehended.
Jobson was 25 and Goddard 26 at the time of a police appeal last March.
Oludewa Okorosobo, 28, of Flaxman Road, Camberwell, south London, denied two counts of robbery and was cleared by jurors after a trial.