Man with no name is jailed for taking identity from baby

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The Independent Online

Christopher Edward Buckingham stole his name in 1983 from the birth certificate of a baby who had died 20 years earlier. Police are still trying to discover his real name and believe he is hiding "a dark secret".

His former wife, with whom he had two children, called yesterday on the man she has always known as Christopher Buckingham to reveal his true identity.

The man's lies began to unravel in January this year when UK immigration officials checked his passport at Calais and found it had been revoked in 2003 after a security trawl by the Passport Agency revealed an exact match with the Register of Deaths.

He claimed to detectives that he was a hereditary peer who sat in the House of Lords, but further checks revealed he had assumed the name using the same method as the hitman in Frederick Forsyth's novel The Day of the Jackal. Last month, he pleaded guilty to making an untrue statement for the purpose of obtaining a passport. Yesterday he was sentenced at Canterbury Crown Court by Judge Adele Williams, who criticised him for his "lack of remorse" and "active obstruction" of the authorities.

His British bank accounts are in order but strict privacy laws have hampered attempts to make inquiries in Switzerland where police believe he has a safe-deposit box. He is thought to be well-off. He owns a house near Northampton and received compensation after being seriously injured in a car crash in France in 2001.

The court heard that the real Christopher Buckingham was born in 1962 in Lambeth, south London, but had died in Selsey, West Sussex. The baby was just over eight months old when he died in August 1963, when the family was on holiday. The child had been left in the care of people in a neighbouring caravan, but stopped breathing, although no definitive explanation for the death has been given.

Earlier this year, when the police investigated the mystery man, they found headed notepaper in his car with a crest referring to "Lord Buckingham" of Little Billing, Northamptonshire. A letterhead bearing the Buckingham coat of arms was found in his possession. However, the College of Arms said no one was registered to use the coat of arms, which was last held in the early 1700s. Claims that he had been to Harrow and that both his parents had died in an air crash also proved to be false. He used the name Christopher Buckingham to marry in 1984 but separated from his wife in 1996 and was divorced in 1997, leaving two children aged 19 and 17. He has worked as an IT security consultant for a Swiss insurance firm since 2001.

His former wife, Jody-Lynn Doe, a Canadian citizen, had told police that the man had always been "vague" about his past and the family was devastated by the news. The court heard that the children faced the prospect of their own names being based on a lie and had already been told that their passports were under review. Following sentencing, Mrs Doe renewed her appeal to him to reveal his true identity. Speaking from her home near Wellingborough, North-amptonshire, she said: "We are just trying to absorb what has happened today in court and we are disappointed that Chris has not revealed his true identity."

In an attempt to discover the man's true identity, fingerprints and DNA samples were sent to South Africa, Switzerland, Germany and Israel. Germany is the subject of inquiries because police say the man claimed parentage from the country at one point while Mrs Doe said she thought her former husband may have spoken with an Israeli or South African accent.

The mother of the boy whose identity was stolen said she was disgusted with the 21-month sentence. Audrey Wing, 66, who lives in Edinburgh, called for the criminal to remain behind bars until he revealed his past. The mother of four said: "It's been terrible. I can't sleep and I can't even leave the house without my husband." She added: "He's been using the name for 23 years and they don't know who he is and he'll carry on with my son's name."

Lawyers representing the man said their client plans to leave the UK on his release although Judge Williams pointed out that he had "no valid travel documents". She said the case was an "intriguing conundrum", adding: "Inevitably, someone does not assume a false identity unless there is a very good reason."

As the judge passed sentence, the man, who was wearing a red T-shirt and grey tracksuit bottoms, showed no emotion in the dock and raised his eyebrows as he was led away.