Astrit Kapaj terrorised the affluent south west London suburb during a burglary spree spanning a decade which netted him at least £500,000
Victims of a burglar dubbed the ‘
Astrit Kapaj, 42, broke into multi-million pound homes across the affluent suburb in south-west
His victims included German tennis legend Boris Becker’s estranged wife Lilly and former Premier League footballer Nicolas Anelka.
Mrs Becker’s home was burgled in October 2013.
Kingston Crown Court heard Kapaj was caught outside on CCTV wearing his trademark fisherman-style hat, creeping around the back of the house with his hand covering his mouth.
Clare Calnan was also targeted by the Albanian in 2014. She said peace of mind ‘was the most valuable thing’ Kapaj took.
She added: ‘The fact that the burglar must have been in the garden watching and waiting for me was particularly disturbing for me.
‘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.’
Kapaj is due to be sentenced this afternoon after admitting 22 burglaries and three attempted burglaries, totalling £497,300.
The ‘Wimbledon Prowler’ (pictured left, with his wife Radi) targeted multi-million pound London mansions and travelled down from Manchester to burgle them
The Prowler struck at night, often shinning up drains or disabling alarm systems to go undetected
Christopher Coombe, who had his garden shed broken into twice by Kapaj, said he felt ‘violated’.
His witness statement said: ‘This is a quiet, suburban garden to which there is no access except by trespassing. We ended up suspecting anyone who has done work for us and our neighbours.
‘We have worked hard to get a better and calmer life than when we were young… we are angry and upset.
‘My family and I feel violated. We consequently feel we can be spied on in our own home. We feel powerless to defend ourselves and our property.’
David Tacheno had £5,000 in cash taken from his home by Kapaj in May 2018.
He still feels ‘anxious’ and worries every time he leaves the house. ‘I have a lack of trust in humanity after this incident,’ he said.
‘I get seriously worried about going out of the house. The psychological impact is ongoing and has manifested in pains in my abdomen.’
Rona Cruishank, who had a £2,000 diamond ring and a £1,000 necklace stolen from her home in in December 2015, said she ‘feels like a prisoner’ in her own home.
‘The theft left me heartbroken due to the loss from our family,’ she said.
‘Even more devastating than the emotional loss of these cherished items is the impact on my day-to-day life.
‘Now I’m constantly suspicious of sounds, lights coming on, movement of the garden tress.
‘I have considered moving because I constantly feel under threat. My feelings of anxiety are with me at all times, especially when I am away from home.’
The court heard today the prolific burglar stole 30 items of jewelry worth more than £371,000 in a single raid in February 2017 – and the owner Nan Brenninkmeyer didn’t notice.
A victim impact statement from Ms Brenninkmeyer was read out to the court.
In it she wrote: ‘I feel violated that someone has come into my home. I have items that can never be replaced.
‘Having a comprehensive security system I never left the house without turning it on.’
The home of German tennis star Boris Becker’s estranged wife Lilly (pictured together) was targeted by the Wimbledon Prowler in October 2013
The Wimbledon Prowler was reportedly chased across a garden by French footballer Nicolas Anelka (pictured)
Kapaj is seen on home security footage raiding a kitchen in the affluent London suburb
Married father of-two Kapaj owned a fish and chip shop in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, but made the 500 mile trip to London to carry out his overnight raids.
He knew Wimbledon well, having previously lived in the affluent community shortly after his arrival in the UK from Albania in the 1990s.
His method was simple yet effective – gain entrance through an open window, often an en suite bathroom on the first floor, and then search quickly, quietly and carefully for valuables.
The 42-year-old, who had no previous convictions, was fastidious, disabling alarms, disguising himself and climbing drainpipes to avoid detection.
Kapaj shunned iPads and televisions in favour of jewellery and cash. But he was cautious to avoid arousing suspicion, so would leave many items behind.
In one case, he lifted £600 from a wallet, but left £200 worth of banknotes behind – unusual behaviour for a burglar.
Many home owners simply thought they had mislaid or spent the money themselves, meaning they would not trawl their own CCTV systems for a burglar.
He would scour kitchen drawers for keys to safes containing precious and valuable rings, necklaces and other keepsakes, but would take care to ensure only one or two items were taken.
Such was his dedication to leaving no trace, Kapaj once returned to a home after lightly damaging a window frame.
He came back with a pot of matching paint from the nearby shed to repaint the damaged window sill and go undetected.
Prosecutors said Kapaj changed from his trademark fisherman’s hat after a BBC CrimeWatch appeal in 2014 showed CCTV from previous break-ins.
CCTV footage shows the prolific burglar with a snood covering his face as he lurks in a garden
The 42-year-old terrorised the affluent south west London suburb during a burglary spree spanning a decade which could have netted him up to £5 million
From then on, he often wore a snood to partly obscure his face, they said.
Kapaj would complete his burglaries at night – knowing that residents would be more likely to suspect a fox was responsible for setting off security lights than a thief.
And he wanted owners to be inside the property as each raid was quietly carried out, meaning any finger of suspicion would likely fall on those with bona fide access to the property.
He was so careful to avoid detection that police did not find a single Kapaj fingerprint in any of the houses he looted.
On one occasion, he was reportedly chased across a garden by French footballer Nicolas Anelka, but got away.
During his criminal career he didn’t once leave behind a fingerprint.
Back home in Altrincham, chip shop worker Kapaj did not display the trappings of a man responsible for such thefts.
Aside from the Mercedes, there were no flashy purchases, or demonstrations he was living a lavish lifestyle.
Police believe he may have frittered a chunk of the money away through gambling.
But after he was caught with a snood, a pair of gloves and a torch in February and in April admitted being behind 21 burglaries and two attempted burglaries, totalling around £542,000.
A map shows how the Prowler targeted homes not far from Wimbledon’s famous tennis club
Police said there were more than 200 burglaries in the area matching Asdrit Kapaj’s modus operandi but detectives haven’t been able to link him to them ‘without reasonable doubt’.
And it was revealed that none of the half million pound worth of jewellery and cash stolen by the
His haul included a diamond ring and a gold necklace, as well as a dress and thousands of pounds in cash.
It emerged that residents had fired cleaners, nannies and child minders because they believed they were responsible for his crimes.
His crimes were first linked in 2014 – six years after the first burglary he admitted to – but it would take police another five years to catch him.
The force spent a year going through 60 ‘known career criminals’ in south London because it was thought to be very unlikely someone of his abilities could have evaded the law.
It wasn’t until forensic advancements in 2016, two years after the burglaries were linked, that detectives identified his DNA by linking it to two targeted homes but it showed up on no database in the UK or in Europe.
Kapaj initially told police that the burglaries were ‘insurance jobs’ and the only way he would be in any of the homes were if he was sleepwalking.
He was found with a pocket knife, a snood and some gloves. Prosecutor Alexandra Boshell told Kingston Crown Court: ‘In the defendant’s first interview he made a prepared statement denying any involvement in the burglaries.
‘He said he had been living in Manchester for at least four years. ‘The items found on him, namely the folding knife and snood were to assist him to commit suicide – he claimed the gloves were cycling gloves and the torch was a flashing cycling torch.
‘Kapaj said he had a problem with gambling and was depressed.’
Ms Boshell added: ‘He said the only way he’d been in a house in Wimbledon Village was if he was sleep walking and that he thought the burglaries were all insurance claims and nothing to do with him.’
Kapaj has to date admitted 26 of the 27 burglary, attempted burglary and going equipped offences he was charged with.
Mitigating, Hugh Mullan, told the court that Kapaj’s gambling addiction led him into debt with loan sharks.
He said: ‘He came to this country as a young man in 1996 – he’s 43 years old and has no previous convictions.
‘He lived a – on the face of it – stable life. He worked as a painter decorator in the south west London area including Wimbledon, that’s why he came to target the Wimbledon area.
‘In the early 2000s he developed a gambling addiction causing him to fall into debt with loan sharks.
‘The offence in 2008 was to pay those loan sharks back for money he owed them.’
Mr Mullan told the court Kapaj met his wife in 2009 and father two children, now four and eight. But his addiction continued to worsen over the years.
Mr Mullan said: ‘His gambling addiction became worse … he actually attempted suicide in 2011 and was sectioned in Charing Cross Hospital.’
The court heard Kapaj’s wife, who moved with him to Manchester, knew nothing of his crimes.
Mr Mullan said: ‘This situation has devastated his wife and family. He has in fact squandered the money his wife invested in the fish and chip shop – £45,000.
‘He would tell her he was doing building work outside Manchester.’ Kapaj is due to be sentenced this afternoon.