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Fraudster posed as friend of the rich and famous

By Mid Devon Gazette  |  Posted: November 27, 2012

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A BOGUS millionaire has been jailed for swindling 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 £17m fortune.

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

Knight claimed to go shooting with guitarist Eric Clapton and to have a mansion next to actor Johnny Depp's home in the Westcountry.

He told the 49-year-old that 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.

The woman'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 cabinetmaker from Bampton 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 materials in stock.

Police who arrested him 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 eight months 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 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."

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

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

Rupert Taylor, defending, said Knight now accepted he had done wrong. After the case, Mrs Hadley-Piggin, who lived Uplowman at the time but has 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 last 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 more than the £10,000 mentioned in court."

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