Elevator moment with fallen sports icon hunted by media

It was reminiscent of when a press photographer confronted me with his long-lens camera for my 15 minutes of fame in April - almost exactly four years previously - when I was controversially expelled from the British Labour Party. 

A phalanx of paparazzi-like media packed closely together, some on aluminium ladders, outside Southwark Crown Court, in London UK, to snap disgraced one-time sports idol Boris Becker, on a cold Friday morning. Not a single one was Black and just a couple of them were women. They were overwhelmingly middle-aged white men.

It was stark evidence momentous Black Lives Matter hadn't much changed the make-up of the British media.

At 11.40am, Boris, the prey, son of a Czech migrant mother and German architect father, stepped out of a London black cab with model African partner Lilian de Carvalho Monteiro for his high noon appearance. [See my backgrounder on Lilian at the end of this story] Statuesque and elegant, she was wearing white tailored six-buttoned trousers and long white jacket with a black polo neck top. 

The couple were a picture of multi-racialism the journalists hunting them clearly weren’t. I counted two dozen reporters, including TV and radio crews from all the British networks and others from Germany, the US and elsewhere.

A white woman BBC sports producer, who'd overheard me bemoan the lack of diversity that reminded me of when I started in broadcasting at the beginning of the 1980s, told me her cameraman was Black. There'd been none in my day.

Like Hollywood icon Robert De Niro, Becker has a penchant for Black women, the latter mainly of mixed heritage like his two ex-wives, fellow German Barbara and Dutch-born Lilly. 

Ironic then that Becker's infamous sexual quickie on the stairs with Black Russian waiter Angela Ermakova, that produced his only daughter, Anna Ermakova, aged 22, was at the De Niro-owned and appropriately named Nobu restaurant in London's posh Mayfair.

You had to have booked a special ticket well in advance of Boris’s sentencing hearing to get a press gallery seat, which I hadn't. 

So, immediately after the former tennis star's arrival, I snuck into the court's reception area as a member of the public. 

Boris, aged 54. milled around with Lilian, who’s in her early 40s, looking disorientated. I spoke briefly with Lilian, making small talk about her having a Portuguese name and enquiring whether she was from Cape Verde, the archipelago and island country off Africa's Atlantic coast, which has a population of less than half a million people. Some other Portuguese-speaking Africans I'd met were from there.

She said Cape Verde was her mother's country and that her father was from São Tomé Principe, an even smaller West African nation. He had been a defence minister, who unsuccessfully ran to become its president in 2014. I told Lilian the only Portuguese word I knew was obrigado but couldn't remember what it meant. She helpfully told me: "Thank-you."

In a world of his own, Boris wandered off to ask staff to which court he needed to go. He then shepherded Lilian to the lifts and, together with a random woman, I got in with them. The door opened on the second floor. I recognised faces of some of the journalists who had been outside before, waiting to pounce on Boris. "Journalists", I said to Boris. He replied: "I know. They're everywhere." He had no intention of talking to them.

The door slid shut and we went to the fourth floor and got out. A court worker told Boris he needed to go to Court One, on the second floor. So, back we went, them taking the lift and me the stairs this time.

I was the last pushy person squeezed into seating for the public on the left side of the court, near the entrance, by the black-robed woman usher. There were just a dozen of us. Boris went into a big glass window-paned witness box cabin in front of the public seating, with only the dour usher for company. His request to stay seated even when sentnced when defendants normally have to stand, because of old knee injuries, was granted by the judge. Boris's 28-year-old son Noah, who arrived at the court after his father, dutifully took a large Puma holdall to Boris. 

It was as if his lawyer had told him to expect to go to jail and he was well-prepared. Grey-haired Boris looked arrogant, cocking his head upwards, suited and booted and wearing an All England Tennis and Croquet Club purple and green Wimbledon Championships tie.

The attractive young Black woman clerk, sitting at the front of the court, began the proceedings by reading out the four charges of which Boris had been found guilty. He took a good luck at her.

If he thought his Anglophone neck tie display would sway the judge not to send him down he was sadly mistaken. Some commentators said the gesture would simply provoke the old-school Wimbledon grandees, who run the prestigious Championships, to axe him from their exclusive club, of which he became a member when he won the men's single title in 1985, aged just 17, the youngest ever male winner.

In the witness box, dejected Boris would now and again mumble something to himself, his tongue poking out slightly as he did. Perhaps he was praying. 

When Lilian came into the court, separating from witness box-bound Boris, she went over to Noah, whom she greeted by touching his leg to reassure him. Casually dressed in jeans, a black polo neck top and grey jacket, with dirty Nike trainers, he was impassive. There was no room next to Noah, so Lilian was ushered across the court room to a seat several metres opposite him. During the three and a half hour hearing, Lilian often looked nervously at Boris. His gaze remained firmly fixed on the stern-looking judge.

After a 1.30pm till 3.15pm break for lunch - it was longer than usual to allow extra time for the judge to put the finishing touches to her judgment - they eventually sat together. Noah leant over and held Lilian's hand when his father was sentenced. She blew Boris a farewell kiss; his face reddened more than before.

Now without Boris, Noah, with a lanky white German man, who looked like an indie filmmaker, a couple of other men, Lilian and a shorter Black woman, who looked like ex-wife Barbara, who hugged her, huddled together in the ground floor court reception area. When Noah walked close to me I mentioned I'd heard his father had been on a Black Lives Matter demo and people appreciated the solidarity he had shown. Noah, speaking with a slightly American accent typical of some people who learned English outside of Britain, asked for my business card.

The press pack was massed outside. Team Boris looked over anxiously at them through the windows, waiting for a car I think the lanky man called to pick them up. Boris hadn't bothered to arranged minders or transport. Twenty minutes later, after the dark-coloured limousine had pulled up, they exited through the front door, Lilian this time wearing dark sunglass she hadn't put on before. I left at the same time. A blizzard of flashing lights greeted us. Team Boris turned sharp left rather than walking straight ahead into the lenses of their tormentors.

But still they were mobbed, as the snappers switched to hot pursuit mode. Lanky man walked ahead of Lilian, pushing past the crowd of photographers and put his hand on her shoulder to help her into the car, which was completely surrounded. Noah stayed behind in the court and left a while later. There was less interest in him.

Boris's prescient lawyer, Jonathan Laidlaw QC, had alluded to the "ugly" scenes of journalists massed outside the court when the top-flight barrister sought sympathy for his client from the judge. But she was in no mood to compromise by suspending Boris's jail term, as m'learned friend had pleaded she should.

He seemed to struggle with his jam-packed big hold-all as he was led by the usher through a door in the witness box to the court's cells. Off then to overcrowded, rat-infested, violent Wandsworth Prison it was for Boris, in a Serco prison van, to serve at least 18 months of his two-and-a-half- year sentence.

As he left the court, Laidlaw was asked by journalists if he intended to make any comment about the case and, grim-faced, he said no. With both Team Boris and him tight-lipped, there was no appetite to lodge an appeal against the prison sentence.

It was days later before Boris's daughter Anna publicly expressed concern for her father's welfare in jail and that of his youngest child 12-year-old son Amadeus, growing up without him, in a German press interview. Lilly, who denied divorce rumours and said she was still married to Boris, spoke more fulsomely to chat show host Piers Morgan on his new Talk TV show. Neither Anna nor Lilly attended the court.


Boris Becker was found to have hidden £2.5million worth of assets and loans to avoid paying his debts, and on Friday begun his sentence, of which he has to serve a minimum of a year and three months.

He was declared bankrupt in June 2017, owing creditors, I'm tempted to refer to them as predators, almost £50 million over an unpaid loan of more than £3 million on his estate, named Villa Son Coll, in Mallorca, Spain. Seized by British private bank, Arbuthnot Latham, his main creditor, to whom, the court heard, he owed the loan money, the £9 million property has stables, four guest houses, a swimming pool, helicopterpad and, of course, a tennis court. 

He transferred around £390,000 from his business account to others, including those of his ex-wife Barbara Becker and estranged wife Sharlely “Lilly” Becker.

Boris also failed to declare his share in a £1 million property in his home town of Leimen, Germany, hid a bank loan of almost £700,000 - worth £1.1million with interest - and concealed 75,000 shares in a tech firm, valued at £66,000.

In his heyday, Boris was estimated to have been worth more than £100 million and had a care-free lavish lifestyle.

He is said to have squandered £10 million on a failed Nigerian oil and gas business deal. Bizarrely, at one point, he claimed to have a Central African Republic diplomatic passport, as the country's sports and culture ambassador, which gave him immunity from prosecution in the bankruptcy case. This was denied by the African country’s government.

He got a two-year suspended sentence for tax evasion and attempted tax evasion worth £1.4million in Germany in 2002. On April 8, this year, he was found guilty of four Insolvency Act offences between June and October 2017. The jury found him not guilty of 20 other charges, including hiding all the many trophies he had won.

At the height of his dire money problems, Boris was said to be paying £25,000 a month to rent a Wimbledon home and 25 per cent interest on a £1.2 million loan - more than four times the going rate - from British Phones 4u multi-millionaire James Caudwell, to whom, it is claimed, he was introduced by Sarah Ferguson, the dodgy Duchess of York. He blamed bad advice from his financial advisors but the judge rightly said the buck stopped with him.

Each of the counts carried a maximum sentence of seven years in prison. On the fateful Friday afternoon, Judge Deborah Taylor sentenced the six-time Grand Slam champion to 30 months' imprisonment, of which she said he would serve at least half.

Judge Taylor told father-of-four Becker: 'I take into account what has been described as your 'fall from grace'. You have lost your career and reputation and all of your property as a result of your bankruptcy.

"You have not shown remorse, acceptance of your guilt and have sought to distance yourself from your offending and your bankruptcy. While I accept your humiliation as part of the proceedings, there has been no humility."

Former champ: Boris has begun his two-and-a-half year prison sentence at HMP Wandsworth, just 2.4 miles away from where he won three grand slam titles at Wimbledon, south London.

After the sentencing, Insolvency Service chief executive Dean Beale added: "Boris Becker's sentence clearly demonstrates that concealing assets in bankruptcy is a serious offence for which we will prosecute and bring offenders to justice."

Layer Jonathan Laidlaw QC said the tennis legend would struggle to find work on release from prison and will have to "rely on the charity of others if he is to survive". 

Describing his client's fall from grace as "public humiliation", Mr Laidlaw added: "Boris Becker has literally nothing and there is also nothing to show for what was the most glittering of sporting careers and that is correctly termed as nothing short of a tragedy."


She was born in the island nation of São Tomé and Principe and is the daughter of Victor Monteiro, 64, the republic's former Minister of Defence who unsuccessfully ran for the presidency in 2014. He's a former army colonel and lists his job on LinkedIn as director of the office of the country's president.

Lilian spent much of her youth in the Italian capital, Rome, where she attended a private school, before studying at the city's University of La Sapienza, before coming to London to study at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), where she earned her master's degree in African studies at the age of 25.

As her father was a prominent public figure, it’s unsurprising that, after passing three university degrees, including the one at SOAS, Lilian took up a job as a political risk analyst in Britain’s capital, where she lives by the River Thames in south London. 

It’s said she is fluent in five languages, including her native Portuguese, Italian, English and German, the latter of which I heard her speak with Boris in the courthouse lift.

Press reports state Lilian met Boris in June two years ago but don’t say where. If only she'd met him years before and prevented him from the financial risk-taking (and womanising) that proved his downfall.

In 2019, he was dating British model Layla Powell, 31, apparently the darkest of any woman with whom he’d gone out, that it's reported Boris snared on Instagram, by liking her sexy photograph postings. 

As well as her political analyst job, Lilian is said to also be a model. No surprise then how good she looked in widely published bikini photographs when on holiday with Boris in Ibiza.

More importantly, she was at Boris’s side on every day of his three-week trial ordeal.