By Josh Payne, PA
An aggressive robber threatened to cut former England footballer Ashley Cole’s fingers off with pliers during a violent break-in at his home, a court has heard.
Nottingham Crown Court heard the ex-Arsenal, Chelsea and Derby County left-back was led around the house in just a pair of shorts as intruders demanded jewellery in January 2020.
Kurtis Dilks, 34, is accused of being part of a four-strong gang who smashed their way into Mr Cole’s home with a sledgehammer.
Jurors were told Mr Cole and his partner Sharon Canu both had their hands bound by black cable ties, and the court was shown CCTV of the intruders leading the former England defender up and down the stairs.
Watches, mobile phones, cash, a Gucci bag, headphones and a BMW smart key were all stolen during the break-in, the court was told.
Dilks is standing trial accused of robbing Mr Cole and Ms Canu, as well as allegedly raiding the home of former Tottenham Hotspur and Derby County midfielder Tom Huddlestone with co-defendants Ashley Cumberpatch and Andrew MacDonald.
Opening the case against Dilks, prosecutor Michael Brady QC said: “During the evening of Tuesday January 21 2020, Ms Canu was at home with their two young children.
“Mr Cole returned home at about 9.30pm when they settled down upstairs to watch a film.
“Within a few minutes Mr Cole and Ms Canu heard a noise from outside the front of the house and placed the TV on mute to hear what it was.
“Mr Cole described the noise as vibrating up the walls into the bedroom and was sufficiently concerned that he checked the view of household security cameras on the app he had on his mobile telephone.
“The robbers were clearly not deterred by his presence.”
Mr Brady said Mr Cole told his partner to call the police, which she did after hiding in a wardrobe.
The prosecutor continued: “The next thing Ms Canu knew was when one of the robbers opened the wardrobe door and took the phone from her while she was talking to the police.
“Ms Canu… followed the intruder and was directed wordlessly by the man who had taken her phone to the bedroom where Mr Cole was.
“She then saw Mr Cole on his knees with his hands tied behind his back.”
Mr Brady said Ms Canu became increasingly concerned after she spotted one of the intruders with a “huge hammer” as Mr Cole was taken from the bedroom by the robbers.
“It was in fact a sledgehammer that had been used to smash the bi-fold downstairs doors through which entry had been gained to the house,” Mr Brady said.
He continued: “Mr Cole noticed that one of the men, who came straight towards him, spoke with an Irish accent, and almost immediately began to man-handle him.
“The man demanded jewellery and ‘kettles’, which is slang for watches, and wanted to know where the safe was.
“When Mr Cole told him that he didn’t have anything the man grabbed the back of his neck and squeezed it.
“Mr Cole’s head was pushed further forward, and he was told to put his hands behind his back at which point he became aware of Ms Canu at the bedroom door.”
Mr Brady told jurors Ms Canu’s hands were then bound together by black cable ties.
He said: “Ms Canu rather bravely initially refused to have her hands bound.
“That bravery understandably evaporated to a certain extent when she was threatened with a knife.
“The man said, ‘Do you want that?’ – meaning the knife.”
Mr Brady said the robbers were making demands for jewellery from Mr Cole and where the safes were.
The Crown’s QC continued: “By this stage Mr Cole’s hands were also bound behind his back with similar cable ties.
“Mr Cole was then picked up by his arms. He saw how distressed his family was.
“Mr Cole mentioned that one of the attackers, a stocky more aggressive man who also spoke with an Irish accent, kept saying ‘let’s cut his fingers’.
“At the time he was armed with a pair of pliers.
“Despite the efforts of the stocky robber to attack him with pliers, the robber who Mr Cole described as the ‘boss man’, the one who had first approached him in his bedroom and grabbed his neck, prevented the attack from going ahead.”
Mr Brady said the robbers then demanded bleach and cleaning products, before one “sprayed Mr Cole’s hands with Febreze”.
The court heard the robbers fled after one shouted “police”.
Mr Brady said Dilks’s DNA was found on a black-handled knife and a black cable tie which were discovered during a search of Mr Cole’s home.
Dilks, of Whitegate Vale, Clifton, Nottingham, faces three charges of conspiracy to commit burglary, four charges of converting criminal property, three charges of conspiracy to commit robbery and two counts of robbery.
Cumberpatch, his partner Kelly Duong, MacDonald, Matthew Johnson, Adrian Eddishaw, Darren Stokes, Christopher Yorke, Gordon Thornhill, Tevfik Guccuk, and Sercan Evsin are also on trial for their alleged part in the series of “ruthlessly executed” burglaries.
The trial continues.