Olympic cyclist Mark Cavendish recounted the moment armed robbers threatened him with a “big” rambo knife in front of his wife while his three-year-old was hiding under the covers.
Cavendish, 37, told the court how he was punched by intruders at his home in Ongar, Essex, before one of the balaclava-clad assailants brandished a blade during a raid that his wife described as “the worst nightmare of all”.
Romario Henry, 31, and Oludeva Okorsobo, 28, both from London, are on trial at Chelmsford Crown Court, charged with robbery in the early hours of November 27, 2021. Two suspects remain at large, Ali Sesay, 28, from East London, pleaded guilty to robbery.
The court heard four masked men escaped with two Richard Mille watches worth a total of £700,000, a Louis Vuitton suitcase and a safe from his home in a 2.30am raid that was described by prosecutors as “well-arranged and a well-executed planned invasion.”
Mr. Cavendish’s watch was one of only four or five ever made, and his wife’s diamond-studded watch was one of a kind. However, Archangelo Power, representing Henry, suggested that the intruders may have been looking for a blue sapphire watch that was lent to her husband by Richard Mille to wear at the GQ Awards where it was presented on the red carpet.
Cavendish, who has a silver medal from the Rio 2016 Olympics and won 34 stages of the Tour de France, was in bed with his wife when the gang broke into their home and, testifying Monday, said he had just recovered from the accident, who put him in intensive care when he was attacked.
Wearing a blue sweater and white-collared shirt, Cavendish said they were awakened by a noise downstairs and his wife got up to investigate.
“I got up to follow her and as I was leaving the room she started coming back,” he said. “She was yelling ‘get in’.” Behind her were figures really close.”
He said he tried to set off the panic alarm but couldn’t find it in the dark and was ambushed by the intruder who proceeded to punch him in the head.
“I went to press the panic alarm and since it was still dark I must have sensed it and it was too late and I was assaulted by one man,” he said. “He immediately hit me on the head with his fist. One had me and the other pulled out a knife and put it to my face.
“It wasn’t the knife you have in the kitchen. It was black and had holes. It was a weapon. They asked where the watches and the safe were. Later they asked where the money and jewelry were.”
Cavendish, who said he was naked when he was attacked, recounted how he pointed to a watch on the windowsill after unsuccessfully trying to open the safe but ran out of battery. He later heard “tires screeching” as the gang fled, forcing him to open the front gates.
Ms Cavendish had previously held back tears as she told the court the raid was “everyone’s worst nightmare” and on waking up in the early hours expected to find one of the children downstairs but instead saw “figures of men wearing balaclavas and running towards the stairs” .
“It’s everyone’s worst nightmare, I didn’t think I was going to get to it,” she said. “I never thought anyone would think that’s what you were going for. It was so sudden that I didn’t have time to think about how you would react to anything. I just knew all my kids were sleeping at home. I tried to run up the stairs as fast as I could.”
Ms Cavendish said the men were wearing balaclavas, tracksuits and gloves before approaching her husband and demanding the valuables.
“They immediately said ‘where are the watches, where is the safe.’ They immediately grabbed Mark off his feet and started beating him. One of them was holding his head at the time,” she said.
“One of them then held a large black knife to his throat, asked where the watches were and if you wanted me to stab you in front of your child.”
When asked to describe the blade, she said it was serrated and about a foot long, and agreed with investigator Edward Renvoize that it could be described as a “rambo knife.”
“I’m pretty sure one of them kneeled him in the head at some point and kept hitting him, he was on the floor, he wasn’t left alone,” she continued. “They were very specific about the watch, we tried to explain that we had been broken into a few years earlier and everything had been taken.”
Both men deny the two robbery charges, and the trial is ongoing.