Fashion tycoon Harold Tillman was the victim of a terrifying raid inside his own home when he came face-to-face with a burglar brandishing a knife, a court has heard.
The retail entrepreneur, 75, confronted the masked thief when he went to investigate a break-in at his Highgate property, and was hurt in a tussle with the intruder as his wife Christine called the police. Kingston crown court heard a large amount of jewellery was stolen from the couple in the raid, which was part of a series of targeted burglaries at high-value properties around London.
“Mrs Tillman now feels insecure and scared for her safety when she is at home,” Shanda McAteer, prosecuting, said. “Mr Tillman feels incredibly sad as a result of what happened. He has worked his whole life to have a safe home for his family and this has left him feeling very unsafe in his own home.”
Mr Tillman was awarded a CBE in 2010 and is one of Britain’s best known self-made retail tycoons. He is the former head of Jaeger and Aquascutum and chaired the British Fashion Council for five years.
Burglar Kevin Braidich, 21, was jailed on Monday for five-and-a-half years for the raid on the Tillmans’ home and another four break-ins at luxury properties around London. The incident happened at about 7pm on July 19 last year. Mr Tillman told the Standard he and his wife heard noises upstairs in their bedroom and when he went up to investigate he saw a masked man with a knife in the room.
He said the man rushed to escape but he slammed the door against him and locked him in. “He pushed against me, there was a tussle but I managed to shut and lock the door,” he said. “ I ran downstairs and hit the panic button. The police came so quickly, they were brilliant. It’s amazing how adrenaline kicks in automatically. You just don’t think: I guess it was just an instinct to protect me and my wife.”
Braidich was initially charged with aggravated burglary, but said he had fled the home when he realised the occupants were present and was not the knifeman who accosted Mr Tillman. He acted as the lookout, the court heard, and was carrying a rucksack containing a hammer and a screwdriver when he was arrested nearby.
Braidich was linked to a £20,000 raid on another Highgate home and a burglary in Barnes by trails of blood he left behind. The court heard Braidich has told police the name of the accomplice, but he remains on the loose.
Michael Polak, mitigating, said Italian national Braidich — a father of one — came to the UK to earn money for his family but struggled to find a job due to his lack of English. “He was not the mastermind or in the driving seat in any of these burglaries,” he said. “He is very remorseful.”
Recorder Christine Agnew QC jailed Braidich for five and a half years. The thief, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to five counts of burglary.