A Romanian couple used a six-year-old boy to help them steal a £67,000 watch from Harrods, a court heard.
Ilie Para and Marta Para-Bloj, both 33, scoped out the luxury retailer, in Knightsbridge, central London, days ahead of the theft and took pictures of the Royal Offshore Oak 18 carat rose gold watch.
The couple returned to the Brompton Road store with the six-year-old on 19 September this year.
When the sales assistant turned her back to them, Para swapped the £67,400 timepiece with a replica hidden in the boy’s hood, Southwark Crown Court heard.
Romanian couple Ilie Para and Marta Para-Bloj, both 33, used a six-year-old boy to help them steal a £67,000 watch from Harrods, a court heard
They scoped out the luxury retailer, in Knightsbridge, central London, days ahead of the theft and took pictures of the Royal Offshore Oak 18 carat rose gold watch
The Romanians were stopped by police days later in their black Audi at the port of Dover attempting to go home.
When Judge Michael Grieve, QC, asked who the third person was, listed in the police report as being in the car, and was told it was the young boy.
‘I did wonder why someone who was instrumental in the commission and present in the offence hadn’t been arrested,’ he said.
Prosecutor Dominic Hockley said the couple were at Harrods five days before the theft.
‘They walked around the store going through numerous watch boutiques and they eventually settled on the AP concession stand.
‘A member of staff brought them the display to try.
The couple returned to the Brompton Road store (pictured) alongside their six-year-old boy on 19 September this year
‘Ilie Para tried a few of those watches and then proceeded to take his photo and photograph one particular watch at all angles.
‘They then departed Harrods in the same vehicle.
‘The Crown say this was plainly a reconnaissance mission.
‘When they found the watch they were interested in they took photographs, no doubt intending to obtain a realistic replica.
‘We say this has shown planning and sophistication,’ said Mr Hockley.
The pair returned to the store a few days later, the boy in tow and once more asked to see the watch display, claiming to be buying a present for the woman’s father.
When the sales assistant turned her back to them, Para swapped the £67,400 timepiece with a replica hidden in the boy’s hood, Southwark Crown Court heard
‘One of the watches was an 18-carat rose gold Royal Oak offshore self-winding chronograph worth £67,400,’ the prosecutor said.
‘The couple said they didn’t like the other watches, they wanted the Royal Oak offshore.
‘When the sales assistant took the other watches and placed them back in the stacks, Mr Para took off the genuine watch he had been trying on and swapped it with a fake.’
The fake was hidden in the boy’s hood.
‘He immediately placed the fake watch on the display tray,’ said the prosecutor.
‘Mrs Para-Bloj moved the watches on the display around to give the impression they were still looking at watches.’
The thieves then claimed they needed some time to ‘think about it’ and got ‘edgy’ when asked for their contact details.
The sales assistant was ‘oblivious’ to the swap but the next day a colleague noticed the watch’s dial was different and it was missing its serial number.
‘It was a convincing fake, but a fake nevertheless,’ said Mr Hockley.
The authorities were altered and the family was stopped at the port of Dover with Para wearing the watch on his left wrist, their London address having been cleared of their belongings.
The Romanians were stopped by police days later in their black Audi at the port of Dover attempting to go home. Pictured: Their trial is taking place at Southwark Crown Court
After watching video footage of the theft, Judge Grieve remarked: ‘It seems to me on the CCTV the child was crying and ready to leave but leaned forward when the father reached out.’
The prosecutor replied: ‘Absolutely. This was a pre-planned offence.’
Graham Taylor, defending Para-Bloj, asked for a pre-sentence report to be prepared and said: ‘She is currently pregnant at the end of the first trimester, and having particular difficulties and concerns.’
Para and Para-Bloj, Hendon, both admitted theft from a shop.
They were remanded in custody ahead of sentence on 14 December at Southwark Crown Court.