Solicitor’s wife succumbed to conman’s charms

PUBLISHED: 09:19 23 November 2012 | UPDATED: 09:25 23 November 2012

Exeter Crown Court. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref exe 0613-21-12AW

Exeter Crown Court. Picture by Alex Walton. Ref exe 0613-21-12AW

Archant

Bogus millionaire jailed for fraud. He told lie after lie after lie.

A bogus millionaire has been jailed after he swindled thousands of pounds from a solicitor’s wife by claiming to be a friend of the rich and famous.

Victor Knight was a penniless carpenter but posed as a businessman from a wealthy family who was about to inherit a £17 million fortune.

He wrecked the marriage of solicitor’s wife Jane Hadley-Piggin, who fell for his string of lies about his wealth and background and took out a £25,000 loan to invest in his business.

Knight claimed to go shooting with Eric Clapton and to have a mansion next to Johnny Depp’s home in the West Country.

He told 49-year-old Jane his mother owned a large estate in Gloucestershire and villas in the Algarve and Florida where she spent the winter months, but it was all lies.

Jane’s marriage broke up after she started an affair with the smooth-talking conman who even fooled her parents and promised a lavish wedding before the money dried up and his lies were exposed.

In reality he was a bungling cabinet maker from Bampton in North Devon who was also ripping off customers who hired him to do building work, Exeter Crown Court was told.

He took on a major project to build a new studio office for a business near Honiton but left owners Hugo and Michaela Montgomery-Swan with huge bills after bungling the scheme and lying about having the materials in stock.

When police arrested him they found an instruction manual entitled How to Build a Barn in his van.

Knight, 61, who was based at Kersdown Barn, Bampton, but is now of Chipstable, near Taunton, admitted four offences of fraud and was jailed for 32 weeks by Judge Erik Salomonsen.

He told him: “When you began your relationship with Mrs Hadley-Piggin you told lie after lie after lie and the consequence of that is the charge which you have admitted, but it was the tip of the iceberg.

“She took out a loan which she could not afford and according to your basis of plea you enjoyed the benefit of £10,000 of that.

“This was not a single fraud. Your offending involved false representations to Mrs Hadley Piggin and the Mrs Montgomery-Swan. Only a custodial sentence is justified given the nature and extent of your offending.”

Mr Joss Ticehurst, prosecuting, said the offences all date back to 2008 to 2009 when Knight told lies during his personal relationship with Jane and his business dealings with the Montgomery-Swans.

He met Jane when he worked at her home and started an affair with her at a time when her marriage was under stress.

He said: “She succumbed to his charms. He described himself as a man from a privileged background. He said his mother was exceedingly wealthy with properties around the world and a large estate in Gloucestershire.

“He said he had a £10,000 a month allowance and was ultimately worth more than £10 million and she fell for it. These claims were a refrain which he used on other people including the Montgomery-Swans.

“Jane fell under his spell and they became romantically involved and was generous towards him, giving access to her credit cards, thinking he would repay them.”

Mr Ticehurst said he got her to take out a £25,000 loan by telling her he needed the money to complete a barn conversion in Sherborne St John, Hampshire, which he would sell for £350,000 and thus enable them to marry and set up home together.

She has ended repaying £27,272 and although he says he only received £10,000 the rest went to repay other debts he ran up while he was with her.

He said he swindled publisher Hugo Montgomery-Swan and his wife Michaela by getting them to pay money up front for £10,000 worth of oak he claimed to have in stock but which did not exist.

The couple were building a barn-style office at their home at Dulford, near Honiton, and he claimed to be able to handle the project but police found an instruction manual in his car.

Mr Rupert Taylor, defending, said Knight now accepts he has done wrong and has a complete change of heart since the offences happened.

He said: “He told lies about his financial background while he was falling in love with someone and he became completely out of his depth.

“He did not pre plan this as a confidence trick. He is someone who gradually became embroiled and got into difficulties.”

After the case Jane, who lived Uplowman at the time but has since moved to Witheridge, said:”I am delighted with the result. It is a relief and brings some closure. He may be called Knight but he is no knight in shining armour.

“The past three years have been a living nightmare which has had a terrible effect on me, my marriage and our children.

“It has cost me four times as much as the £10,000 they mentioned in court. I was left with debts on phone contracts and credit card bills.

“He told so many lies. He said he went shooting with Eric Clapton and had a house next to Johnny Depp and was worth £17 million. I am glad he has faced justice at last.

Michaela Montgomery-Swan said Knight had contributed to the failure of part of their business last year and they are still paying to repair the sub standard work he did.

She said: “I hope this will act as a warning to others. You see so much about dodgy builders these days it is good that they suffer the consequences when they are caught.”

Detective Constable Perriam said:”I am pleased with the result of this case and I would be interested to hear from anyone else who may have had dealings with Knight.”


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