UK & World News
Socialite Pistol-Whipped In 'Terrifying' Raid
A close friend of David Cameron and Tony Blair has said she was "terrified" after being pistol-whipped by armed robbers who burst into her Italian home and escaped with a £500,000 haul.
Socialite Lady Carla Powell, 71, whose husband Lord Charles was ex-prime minister Margaret Thatcher's adviser, was woken by her pet dogs after they were disturbed during the raid by the four-strong gang.
One of the gang hit her over the head with the butt of the gun and demanded to know where valuables were before they escaped with jewels, cash and other valuables.
The raid happened at her isolated country house in Palombara Sabina on the outskirts of Rome and where Mr Cameron, Mr Blair and Mrs Thatcher have been guests.
Police confirmed one member of staff had been injured in the raid.
Lady Carla said: ''They were torturing poor Dario [her butler]. They twisted his knee so hard it was dislocated.
''I have never, ever been so scared in my life."
She said the gang also ripped a Cartier watch from her wrist.
''I used to be a really fearless person but now I'm absolutely terrified. I will have to take a look at security now and make sure things are safer as Charles isn't here all the time but he is now," she said.
She joked: ''I feel like Pope Francis - poor and pure."
Lady Carla was in London at the weekend and the raid happened just hours after she flew back to Italy.
A police source in Palombara said forensic teams were having trouble identifying fingerprints at the scene as the gang had worn rubber gloves and were also masked.
Lady Powell - whose husband is the Baron of Bayswater - was attacked after she went to investigate why one of her dogs was barking.
It is the latest in a series of raids on villas around Rome and police are working on the theory the culprits knew of Lady Carla due to several ''at home'' interviews she has given to Italian media.
She divides her time between Rome and London, and her Italian home is shared with several domestic staff and several animals which she has named after politicians including Mr Blair and Gordon Brown.
A police spokesman said: "We are investigating an armed robbery on a villa at the locality of Palombara Sabina.
''We believe the suspects are four armed men from Eastern Europe. This was a terrifying ordeal for the female victim.
"At least two shots were also fired and we are examining the shell of one which was recovered from a wall. CCTV footage from the nearby town and motorway is also being examined."