A woman accused of using sleight of hand to carry out an audacious £4.2 million diamond heist has claimed it was her now dead sister who carried out the raid.
Lulu Lakatos, 60, allegedly stole seven precious stones from the Mayfair jeweller, Boodles, in March 2016, by surreptitiously swapping them with worthless garden pebbles hidden in her handbag.
But giving evidence at Southwark Crown Court, she insisted the real thief was her sister, Lilian, who died in a car accident in Constanza, Romania, in October 2019.
Jurors were also told that traces of her late sister’s DNA as well as her own was found on the stolen gems and that a witness picked out Lilian in a police identity parade.
The prosecution alleges that Ms Lakatos stole the diamonds while posing as a gemologist called “Anna” who claimed to be working for a wealthy Russian buyer.
The gems, which included a 20-carat heart-shaped diamond, valued at more than £2.2 million, and a £1.1 million three-carat pear-shaped pink diamond, were placed in the suspect’s handbag for just seconds before a member of Boodles’ staff told her to remove them.
However, when the suspect removed the bag of gems she used sleight of hand to swap them for an identical decoy containing worthless pebbles, the court heard.
Ms Lakatos, who was born in Romania but has lived in Sant-Brieuc, France, since 1984, denied she had been involved in the sophisticated conspiracy but said her sister had confessed to her that she was part of the heist.
She claimed Lilian had told her she had used her passport five times to travel to the UK – including in March 2016 when the precious stones were stolen.
The jury was shown CCTV footage of a grey-haired woman at a north London hotel and in a pub near Victoria station.
But Ms Lakatos claimed it was not her, telling the jury: “This is my sister, Lilian Lakatos.”
She said her sister had confessed to her that she had used her passport and had taken part in the raid.
“At first I was angry and she promised that she will make everything … to sort it out. It will take some time,” she told the jury.
“She promised me she needed time, she wanted to present herself. If she didn’t have this accident, she would be here today.”
But, after playing the CCTV footage to the jury, prosecutor Philip Stott suggested her story was “all a lie”.
He said the grey-haired woman in the footage could not have been Lilian, who was nine-years younger, because photos of her around the time suggested her hair was brown.
He said: “What you’re saying is that your sister has taken your passport, coloured her hair, gone to England to carry out this crime, returned to France, made herself look her normal age, to then return to your apartment to replace the passport, is that the suggestion you’re making?
“You would agree, wouldn’t you, that the woman we see in the CCTV look an awful lot like you doesn’t she?”
Ms Lakatos replied: “It looks like, but it’s not me.”
She has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to steal. Two others, Christophe Stankovic and Mickael Jovanovic, have already pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal.
The trial continues.