Millionaire author 'was killed for his identity'

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The Independent Online

A reclusive millionaire was battered to death by a conman who stole his identity to siphon thousands of pounds from his accounts, a court heard yesterday.

Allan Chappelow, 86, was a renowned biographer of George Bernard Shaw but had become "rather eccentric" in his old age, the Old Bailey was told. His body lay undiscovered for three weeks beneath a pile of waste paper in his £2.5m home in Hampstead, north London.

Meanwhile, Chinese-born Wang Yam had stolen his post and impersonated him to ransack his savings, jurors heard. When Mr Chappelow's body was found, Mr Yam allegedly fled the country on Eurostar.

Mr Yam, 46, of West Hampstead, denies murder, burglary, theft, handling stolen goods and obtaining a money transfer by deception in May and June 2006.

Part of the trial will be heard in private because of the sensitive nature of some of the evidence, Mr Justice Ouseley told jurors. The gagging order, imposed for reasons of national security, was challenged by media groups including The Independent but the application was rejected.

Mark Ellison, for the prosecution, said Mr Chappelow became a successful author in the 1980s with his two biographies of Shaw. "But, by the time he was murdered, he was not only elderly but quite reclusive, and was described by one neighbour as rather eccentric," he added. "His house was severely dilapidated and heavily cluttered with rubbish inside and outside. He often did not come to the door when callers came. However, he was regarded as highly intelligent and there was no question he was able to handle his affairs."

Mr Chappelow was in the US in April 2006 when his house was burgled and his post, showing he had a large sum in savings accounts, was stolen. He reported the theft on his return.

In May, a postman was unable to reach Mr Chappelow's front door because a tree had fallen down. Soon afterwards, he was approached by "a Chinese-looking man" who said he was related to the occupant and would remove the tree. The next day, the postman found the tree had been shifted, jurors heard.

Meanwhile, Mr Yam was allegedly carrying out an identity theft known as "facility takeover" – using data contained in the stolen mail to impersonate his victim over the phone and online to steal £20,000.

Mr Yam lived in a rented flat a few streets away from Mr Chappelow and, at the time, was in "dire financial straits" after declaring himself bankrupt with debts of £1.1m, jurors heard.

The case continues.