Mark Cavendish was threatened with a large knife and punched by balaclava-wearing robbers who said they would "stab him up" in front of his children, a court heard yesterday.
Details of the shocking attack of 27 November 2021 were heard from prosecutor Edward Renvoize on the opening day of the trial of Romario Henry, 31, and 28-year-old Oludewa Okorosobo at Chelmsford Crown Court.
Both men deny involvement in the robbery described by prosecutor Renvoize as a "well-orchestrated, well-executed, planned invasion" of Cavendish's family home in the Ongar area of Essex.
"This was not a run-of-the-mill robbery by opportunist thieves," he told the court. "It was a well-orchestrated, well-executed, planned invasion of the home of a well-known individual with the intention to obtain high-value timepieces.
"It's quite clear the assailants were interested in obtaining watches and once they got the watches they left the premises with very little else.
"The perpetrators had large knives and concealed their identities with balaclavas. They threatened the couple and meted out violence to Mark Cavendish to meet their demands."
The court heard Cavendish and his wife Peta had been in bed with their young son when they heard a loud noise elsewhere in the property.
It came just days after the then-Deceuninck Quick Step sprinter had returned home from a Belgian hospital after suffering serious injuries — including two broken ribs and a collapsed lung — in a crash at the Ghent Six Day, so his wife left the room to investigate the noise, thinking the eldest of her four children had knocked something over.
"As she began to go down the stairs, she became aware of people running towards her," Mr Renvoize continued. "She turned and ran back up, shouting for her husband to get into the bedroom.
"Mr Cavendish tried to find the panic alarm. As he did so, two of the assailants pounced on him and started punching him, demanding that he turn off the alarm.
"One produced a knife and threatened to 'stab him up' in front of his children. Mrs Cavendish was understandably looking after her three-year-old child, keeping him under the duvet to stop him from seeing what was going on."
The court also heard Peta had tried to call the police but was spotted by one of the intruders and threatened with a knife as they demanded to know where the watches were.
Cavendish pointed to a £400,000 Richard Mille timepiece on the windowsill, but one of the robbers insisted "that's not it".
Cavendish was ordered to open a small safe but could not as the batteries had died, something the trial heard prompted more violence before the robbers eventually fled with his watch, another £300,000 Richard Mille timepiece, the safe, three phones and a Louis Vuitton suitcase, none of which have been recovered.
When police officers arrived at the property they discovered a phone belonging to Cavendish's wife outside the property.
"The misplacement of that phone was quite an error," Mr Renvoize told the court, explaining that forensic officers had found DNA belonging to 28-year-old Ali Sesay who has already admitted his involvement in the raid.
The court also heard phone records showing mobile devices belonging to Henry and Okorosobo were close to the Essex address that night and that the property had been raided a year earlier with many of the couple's belongings stolen.
"Police looked at phone data and were able to see the defendants travelled from a particular area of South London up to Essex and back almost immediately after the robbery," Mr Renvoize said, explaining that the defendants do not deny the burglary took place, only that they were involved in it.
"We cannot say we've identified each individual involved or what each did," he continued. "Whether the individuals you are considering were the drivers or went into the property itself matters not — each had a specific role in this robbery."
The trial continues.
Please note due to the ongoing trial comments under this story are closed.
Dan joined road.cc in 2020, and spent most of his first year (hopefully) keeping you entertained on the live blog. At the start of 2022 he took on the role of news editor. Before joining road.cc, Dan wrote about various sports, including football and boxing for the Daily Express, and covered the weird and wonderful world of non-league football for The Non-League Paper. Part of the generation inspired by the 2012 Olympics, Dan has been 'enjoying' life on two wheels ever since and spends his weekends making bonk-induced trips to the petrol stations of the south of England.