A couple ‘groomed’ their six-year-old son so he could help them steal a £67,000 watch from Harrods.
Ilie Para and Marta Para-Bloj, both 33, took pictures of the Audemars Piguet Royal Offshore Oak 18 carat rose gold watch at the luxury store five days before the theft.
They then returned with their son to carry out the theft on September 19 this year.
They managed to steal the pricey 18 carat rose gold watch by swapping it with a replica hidden in the boy’s hood when the sales assistant turned her back to them, Southwark Crown Court heard.
The Romanian couple were stopped by police days later at the port of Dover as they were attempting to go home.
Para and Para-Bloj both admitted theft from a shop with Para being jailed for 18 months while his wife Para-Bloj sentenced to eight months in jail.
Judge Michael Grieve, QC, told the pair they had ‘groomed’ their young child to help them commit the theft.
He said: ‘”You took part in what has aptly been described as a sophisticated, well-planned and audacious plan to steal an expensive watch using your six-year-old child as a key part in its execution.”
Prosecutor Dominic Hockley said the couple were at Harrods five days before the theft, trying on various timepieces.
He said: “When they found the watch they were interested in they took photographs, no doubt intending to obtain a realistic replica.”
When the pair returned the second time, they pretended to be buying a present for the woman’s father.
The prosecutor said: “When the sales assistant took the other watches and placed them back in the stacks, as she did that, Mr Para took off the genuine watch he had been trying on and swapped it with a fake that was concealed in his child’s coat hood.
“He immediately placed the fake watch on the display tray.”
The thieves then claimed they needed some time to ‘think about it’ before leaving the store.
The sales assistant was not aware of the swap until the next day when a colleague noticed the watch’s dial was different and it was missing its serial number.
Police were alerted and the couple were stopped at the port of Dover with Para wearing the watch on his left wrist.
Ioana Nedelcu, defending, told the court Para-Bloj was pregnant at the time of her arrest and had ‘suffered tremendously’ after miscarrying while in prison.
The barrister added that the pair allegedly carried out the offence because Para’s grandfather, who recently passed away, needed an operation and they didn’t have any money to pay for it privately in Romania.
The young boy is currently being looked after by his 18-year-old sister in Romania.