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James Stunt was high on cocaine and could not be trusted with key to own safe, court hears

The former husband of Formula One heiress Petra Eccleston was so high on cocaine that he was ‘not in the right frame of mind’ to be trusted with the key to his own safe from which a £515,000 diamond ring was stolen, a court heard.

James Stunt was ‘taking lots of drugs’ when his former bodyguard Justinas Ivaskevicius, 34, allegedly stole the 16.18-carat yellow diamond from his Belgravia home in December 2017.

Other than the diamond ring, none of the items that were supposed to be in the safe have ever been recovered. 

Missing items also include two blue diamonds, a pink diamond, a large white diamond, six 1kg gold bars, and a Cartier engagement ring. 

Prosecutors say Ivaskevicius, posing as ‘Sebastian Thomasz Kowal’, tried to sell the diamond ring to a jewellery dealer in Antwerp, Belgium, before it was sent to the Gemilogical Institute of America.  

Giving evidence, Mr Stunt’s former head of security Gabriel Lekwara told the court he employed Ivaskevicius as a part-time security guard ‘if and when needed.’ 

James Stunt was 'taking lots of drugs' when his former bodyguard Justinas Ivaskevicius, 34, allegedly stole the 16.18-carat yellow diamond ring from his safe, a court heard

James Stunt was ‘taking lots of drugs’ when his former bodyguard Justinas Ivaskevicius, 34, allegedly stole the 16.18-carat yellow diamond ring from his safe, a court heard

The tycoon needed ‘quite a lot of time’ after the divorce from Ecclestone in 2017, which led to Mr Lekwara working 18-hour days. 

After the move to the Belgravia address, the key to the safe was kept in the tycoon’s Rolls Royce glove department.  

When asked why he didn’t leave the key with ‘Stunt Co’ vice-president and Mr Stunt’s close friend Alex Tulloch, Mr Lekwara said: ‘Both Alex and Stunt were not in the right frame of mind.

‘There were drugs involved, drinking, they weren’t in the right frame of mind for me to give the key.’

Michael Lavers, defending, asked him: ‘Mr Stunt told us in his evidence that at the time he was taking lots of drugs.

‘You are saying that because of his intoxicated state you couldn’t leave the key with him.

‘I am asking about Alex, not Mr Stunt.’

‘Alex as well,’ replied Mr Lewkara.

During the trial a court heard the key to the Rolls Royce was kept in a wicker basket in the kitchen, along with the keys to Mr Stunt’s two Bentleys and Range Rovers and his Lamborghini.

The day before the theft, Mr Lekwara opened the safe twice, once to put some money in and once to remove a gold bar he was instructed to drive to a West Hampstead address.

He told the jury he was asked to come back first thing next day to transport ‘three or four gold bars’ to Birmingham.  

Mr Lekwara said he was ‘not aware’ ahead of time that Mr Stunt’s butler John Gilmore was due to travel to Amsterdam on the day before the contents of the safe vanished.

The tycoon split from F1 heiress Petra Ecclestone in 2017 after six years of marriage

The tycoon split from F1 heiress Petra Ecclestone in 2017 after six years of marriage

‘One of the bodyguards telephoned me to tell me that John Gilmore was leaving the house.

‘I called the bodyguard and said ‘make sure he is searched before leaves,’ he said.

‘I didn’t trust him that much anyway. That is why I gave the order that he be searched.’

The only three bodyguards present overnight at the time were Ivaskevicius, his brother and a man known as Victor, said Mr Lekwara.

As he was driving into work the morning of December 14, Mr Lekwara received a call from Mr Stunt asking him to drive ‘a lady friend’ back home in the Rolls Royce.

In turn, Mr Lekwara called one of his security guards and asked him to take the safe key out of the glove department so that he could easily access it.

As soon as he arrived in the £10million mansion, the head of security went to open the safe to retrieve the gold bars he had meant to take to Birmingham.

Asked what he found in the safe, he replied: ‘Nothing at all. There was nothing in there.’

After confirming nobody had taken the items out on Mr Stunt’s request, Mr Lekwara called the police but was ‘upset’ when his long-time employer proceeded to accuse him of being behind the theft. 

At the time of the incident, Mr Lekwara had worked for Mr Stunt for ‘six to seven years’, acting as his personal bodyguard prior to his divorce to Ms Eccleston.

Security guard Justinas Ivaskevicius, 34, is accused of stealing the diamond from Mr Stunt's Belgravia property (pictured)

Security guard Justinas Ivaskevicius, 34, is accused of stealing the diamond from Mr Stunt’s Belgravia property (pictured)

The tycoon would even take his bodyguard with him when he would fly to LA, jurors heard.

Mr Lavers asked him: ‘Did you enjoy working for him?’

‘Yes,’ replied Mr Lekwara.

‘He only became difficult after his brother’s death and the divorce,’ said Mr Lekwara.

‘Would you describe it as more than a working relationship,’ asked Mr Lavers.

‘More akin to a friendship?’

‘Correct,’ said Mr Lekwara.

Jurors were told that Mr Lekwara decided to quit working his job a mere week after the theft was discovered.

‘The main reason he started accusing me of the theft of his property which upset me so much, that is why I walked away.

‘All the years I had worked for him I never took anything from his,’ said Mr Lekwara.

Mr Stunt kept pointing the finger on his former employee for ‘quite some time’, sending him accusatory texts up until the following February, a court heard.

Mr Lavers asked: ‘Did Mr Stunt apologise to you?’

‘Yes, a month ago,’ said Mr Lekwara.

‘He texted me on Instagram. I didn’t reply back to him.’

Martin Bowyer, prosecuting, said six months after the raid, on May 10, 2018, the diamond, ‘bearing the price tag of £550,000 turned up at the Gemological Institute of America in New York.

He said Ivaskevicius was involved in the theft of that diamond and ‘during the course of the police investigation into the theft other criminality of this defendant was uncovered.

‘Searches of addresses linked to him demonstrate his involvement in a cannabis farm, the possession of a significant quantity of cash representing his proceeds of crime, in handling a quantity of stolen cheques and the use of a number of false identities,’ said Mr Bowyer.

After arresting Ivaskevicious at his home in Fallowfield, Cambridge in May, Flying Squad detectives found £50,000 and £30,000 in cash, said to be proceeds of criminal activity.

Ivaskivicius denies theft and two counts of possession of criminal property.

He also denies possessing an identity document with improper intention, producing a class B drug and four counts of handling stolen goods.  

Jurors have been shown pictures of the contents of the safe, which included two blue diamonds, a pink diamond, a large white diamond, six 1kg gold bars, the yellow diamond ring and a Cartier engagement ring, which Stunt said he gave his ex-wife.

The trial continues.

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