Who is the Wimbledon Prowler?
Chip shop owner pleads guilty to ten-year burglary spree
A man dubbed the Wimbledon Prowler is facing a lengthy prison sentence after admitting carrying out a burglary spree that spanned more than a decade.
Asdrit Kapaj, 42, reportedly stole items from 18 homes in the affluent southwest London suburb in what prosecutors called a “sustained campaign” of burglary that began in 2008.
The fish and chip shop owner this week pleaded guilty to 21 counts of burglary at Kingston Crown Court, and also admitted two counts of attempted burglary and a further count of going equipped, the BBC reports.
His spree finally came to an end when he was arrested in February this year, says the Wimbledon Times.
But who is Kapaj?
What did he do?
Kapaj ran a takeaway in Altrincham, Greater Manchester, but regularly made the 400-mile round journey to burgle properties in Wimbledon.
He was accused in court of “meticulously destroying security equipment on most of his burglaries”, but was repeatedly captured on security cameras wearing a distinctive fisherman’s hat, The Independent says.
During his trial, prosecutor Mary Atera said that Kapaj “had been targeting specific areas and the burglaries were only committed at night, between 7pm and 5am”.
“The defendant had been committing a very tidy search when going into homes, closing drawers and putting items back in place, causing some of the victims not to discover they had been burgled. He targeted jewellery and cash,” Atera added.
The Times reports that he bagged a haul of jewellery worth £371,855 in a single burglary in February 2017.
Reports suggest he may have also targeted properties belonging to tennis legend Boris Becker and former Premier League footballer Nicolas Anelka, although this could not be confirmed.
Scotland Yard had previously linked the so-called Wimbledon Prowler to a total of 200 burglaries.
Who is he?
Kapaj arrived in the UK from Kosovo as a teenager in the late 1990s, reports The Daily Telegraph, which says he “led a seemingly normal life in the north of England, where he ran his takeaway food business”.
His lawyer told the court that Kapaj was a Serbian Kosovan and “has been here since he was 16”, with indefinite leave to remain. He reportedly lives with his wife and two children.
But according to the Daily Mail, a man claiming to be Kapaj’s older brother has said that he is Albanian but claimed to be a Kosovan refugee in order to gain entry to the UK more easily. The man told the newspaper that Kapaj was born in a hospital near the village of Gjorm, about 20 miles from the city of Vlore in southern Albania, in 1977, and has “no links to Kosovo”.
The Mail reports that the Home Office has said it would not comment on Kapaj’s case but adds that “UK officials are likely to be investigating his background”.
How was he caught?
Kapaj’s burglary spree ended with his arrest on 22 February, after his car was “repeatedly spotted on automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras travelling back and forward between Manchester and London”, the Telegraph says.
Having pleaded guilty to a total of 24 offences, he will be sentenced on 21 June.
A group of Wimbledon Village residents, including 81-year-old victim Philippa Beck, were in court to hear his guilty pleas.