A serial burglar dubbed the “Wimbledon prowler” who tried to raid the home of tennis star Boris Becker has been jailed.
Asdrit Kapaj made 400-mile round trips from Greater Manchester to south-west London to commit his crimes.
The 43-year-old pleaded guilty to 26 offences after his crime spree was finally brought to a halt in February.
Kapaj, who also admitted the attempted burglary of Mr Becker’s home, was jailed for 14 years on Friday.
But officers believe the married father-of-two may have been behind more thefts, with up to £5m in stolen jewellery and cash lifted from homes in Wimbledon Village dating back to 2008.
Victims included the German tennis ace, while on another occasion Kapaj was reportedly chased across a garden by French footballer Nicolas Anelka.
Sentencing, Judge Peter Lodder QC said: “You are a prolific, persistent and professional burglar.
“Such was your stealth and expertise in many cases it remains a mystery how you gained entry to their homes. Not surprisingly, you terrified the whole community.”
Residents targeted by Kapaj between 2008 and 2019, said they installed locks, bolts and extra security, while others sacked their personal staff due to suspicions they were behind the stealing.
‘Left me heartbroken’
Clare Calnan, whose home was targeted in 2014, told Kingston Crown Court that peace of mind “was the most valuable thing” Kapaj took.
She said: “For years after the burglar’s last visit, every time I walked down my path to my door at night, I wondered if he was lying in wait, watching and waiting.”
Rona Cruishank, who had a £2,000 diamond ring and a £1,000 necklace stolen in 2015, said now she “feels like a prisoner” in her own Somerset Road home.
“The theft left me heartbroken due to the loss from our family”, she added.
Prosecutor Alexandra Boshell said CCTV showed an attempted burglary took place at said Mr Becker’s home in October 2013.
Mr Becker’s estranged wife, Sharlely, told the court: “CCTV shows it is the defendant, wearing the same fisherman-style hat, creeping around the back of the house, his hand covering his mouth.”
At its height, Scotland Yard had a team of 50 officers working full-time to find the suspect, and had drawn up a suspects’ list of around 60 criminals with a record of burglaries in the south-west London area.
But Kapaj was not among them.
A breakthrough only came when advances in DNA technology showed that two burglaries committed two years apart were carried out by the same suspect.
Kapaj, who was arrested in February, has never told police what happened to the money or jewellery he stole, which police have been unable to trace.