Bogus blogger who posed as Met police officer jailed

 

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The Independent Online

A fantasist who blogged about his experiences as a police officer during last summer's London riots was today jailed for five years.

Ellis Ward, 29, gained a massive following with his postings about life as a Met police inspector on the streets of London.

He musings on Twitter were followed up by several national newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph which paid him £600 for a column called "On the frontline".

But Ward's charade as a police officer was not just restricted to the internet, as he also posed as an Army major who had been injured in Iraq.

With an impressive array of uniforms and identity cards, the serial conman used his aliases to dupe three unsuspecting women out of thousands of pounds.

At Winchester Crown Court, Ward, of Bishop's Cleeve, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, was jailed for five years after admitting 18 charges of fraud.

Judge Peter Ralls QC told the defendant: "You engaged yourself in a deception of quite staggering complexity.

"You lived a complete lie. You were in effect creating a fantasy world for yourself."

The judge told Ward he had used false identity cards and uniforms to commit a "serious breach of trust" in defrauding the three women.

"The life you put forward was entirely without foundation," the judge said.

Ward was wanted by Gloucestershire Police for fraud in 2009 but was released from a nine-month prison sentence before officers could speak to him and spent the next two and a half years on the run.

He was eventually arrested in February this year as forces including Essex, Wiltshire and Thames Valley helped track him down.

Police found that as well as posing as a police officer, he also claimed to be a major in the Royal Military Police, and while living in Ware, Hertfordshire, he claimed to be a man called Ethan Winchombe.

He told people that he had been invalided out of the Army after being injured by an IED in Iraq and had also spent time attached to the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

Former girlfriends told police that Ward carried false warrant cards, real handcuffs, stop and search forms, witness statement forms and police pocket books.

He also duped The Daily Telegraph newspaper, who contacted him to give a first-person account of his frontline duties in Tottenham and Croydon during the August riots.

Winchester Crown Court heard Ward befriended one woman over the internet in December 2008 and ran up credit card debts in her name of £30,000 over the subsequent six months.

He also later met two other women over the internet - one a serving police community support officer who later became a Pc - and conned them out of a total of £12,000.

Prosecutor Michael Williams told the court: "The defendant is a professional confidence trickster and over a number of years has portrayed himself as a senior police officer and an Army major injured in Iraq to gain the trust of, and defraud, women.

"There was no limit to the lies he was prepared to tell in order to get his hands on money."

Mr Williams said Ward met his first victim in December 2008.

"From the outset of the relationship everything he told her was a lie," he said.

"He told her he had been in the counter terrorism branch and had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder which was triggered by being sent to an address where he discovered his sister's body.

"He had previously been in the Ministry of Defence Police and while serving a tour of duty in Iraq had been injured by an IED.

"She believed it was a genuine relationship, she trusted him and loved him and invited him to share her home."

After being released from a nine-month prison sentence for fraudulently using false identities he met two more women online.

The court was told he told them a pack of lies claiming to be a police inspector and a former Army officer.

He borrowed large sums of cash from them and also unbeknown to them had taken credit cards out in their names.

The fraud of these two women totalled £12,000, the court was told.

Police investigators also discovered that Ward had attended a military parade posing as an Army veteran.

Ward was seeing these two women at the same time.

While living with one, he told the other that she could not visit his home as it was on a military base and would compromise his job.

Daniel Higgins, defending, said Ward wished to apologise to all the people he had conned.

"He wishes for me to convey to the court, to those that have been affected, his remorse, whether or not it is accepted or believed.

"He genuinely liked and loved many of the people involved."

Mr Higgins said Ward felt excluded from society and did not believe he had an identity as he was without a birth certificate or driving licence.

"Ellis Ward never had a father in his life and his mother was an alcoholic who died in 2004," he said.

"He told a psychiatrist that he wanted to have a real life, job and friends. In his mind he is somebody that does not exist.

"He has lived a lie and he does accept that he has put a great number of people through heartache."

Nikki Haywood, district crown prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service Wessex, said: "Ellis Ward is a convicted professional conman and the true extent of his deception may never be fully known.

"He grossly abused the trust and the love of the women he had relationships with.

"Ward was released in October 2009 having served nine months' imprisonment for fraud.

"He was then arrested in February 2012 by Hertfordshire Police for offences that he committed after his release from prison.

"They arrested a man, who gave the name of Ethan Winchcombe, for offences of kidnap and impersonating a police officer. This male was in fact Ellis Ward.

"Both prior to his prison sentence and after his release, Ward had met and started relationships with women from various parts of the south and south east of England.

"From 2008 up to this year he told each of them numerous lies in order to defraud them from their money by taking credit cards in their names or loans.

"One of his biggest lies was claiming that he was a Metropolitan Police inspector involved in the London disorders last August, and he set up a Twitter page, which attracted 3,000 followers in this persona.

"He also gave interviews of his purported involvement in the disorders on television and to national papers, one of which paid Ward for his stories.

"Like any good conman, he carefully prepared his stories, making sure that they were credible to his victims.

"To one he said that he was an acting inspector for the Metropolitan Police counter terrorism branch, which he had to leave because he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder.

"He pleaded guilty to defrauding the victim and misusing her credit cards to obtain more than £30,000.

"Pure greed drove him to prey on another victim while he was having a long term relationship with another woman in Hertfordshire.

"There are no doubts that Ellis Ward's behaviour has been reprehensible and we hope that the victims in this case, who probably still suffer from the impact of his offending, will now be able to move on with their lives."

PA