OAP jailed for faking own death

A pensioner was jailed for six years today after he admitted faking his own death in Central America to try to pocket a £520,000 life insurance payout.







A judge said Anthony McErlean, 66, committed "deliberate and calculated fraud" after he impersonated his wife to claim he had died after being struck by a produce truck in Honduras on December 6, 2009.



Fake official documents, including a death certificate, were produced in a bid to back up his bogus tale, claiming the crash happened as McErlean was changing a tyre.



A made-up witness said he was travelling with McErlean to take wildlife pictures, and that following the crash farm workers took his body away to a small village called Santa Rosa de Aguan.



Police were alerted by the Insurance Fraud Bureau, which had been contacted by suspicious officials at Ace European insurance company, which did not pay out a penny to McErlean.









The case bears similarities to that of back-from-the-dead John Darwin who faked his own death in a canoe accident off Teesside in 2002 to help him and his wife Anne claim insurance and pension cash before fleeing to Panama.

Detectives from Kent Police arrested McErlean and found him with a debit card in the name of Green.



It emerged that not only had he faked his own death but he had been claiming pensions relating to his late father-in-law from a previous marriage who died in March 2007.



At Canterbury Crown Court on June 13, McErlean, of Swarling Hill Road, Petham, Kent, pleaded guilty to a series of charges.



They included fraudulently making a claim to the Ace European insurance firm, fraudulently obtaining a passport and two counts of theft from a pension fund from the Port of London Authority totalling some £27,000 and £40,658 from the Department of Work and Pensions.



Dressed smartly, bearded McErlean showed no emotion as he returned to the same court today to be sentenced by judge Adele Williams.



She told him: "This is deliberate and calculated fraud, not only from corporate bodies but also from the public.



"In my judgment, you were driven by a desire to gratify your own overweening greed.



"You sought to benefit at the expense of others."









Prosecutor Donna East said: "The defendant took out an accidental death policy with Ace European insurance and the policy was for £520,000.

"In January 2010 the company received documents reputing to come from his wife stating that her husband had been killed in a car crash in Honduras on December 6, 2009 and had been cremated.



"The paperwork had been forwarded to Ace by a friend of the wife who was acting as her agent in the UK while the wife stayed in Honduras."



The documents submitted to the insurance firm included McErlean's death certificate, a police report of the crash, a witness statement and a claim form.



Ms East said: "The company expressed some suspicions about the claim particularly in view of the fact that they had asked for the defendant's passport and that was declined, so they placed the matter in the hands of the police for investigation."



Tests on the death certificate submitted to the company found McErlean's fingerprints on it.



He was arrested and during police interview he said he "didn't want to be destitute in old age" and needed £520,000.



He also said his wife had no knowledge about what he had done, Ms East added.



McErlean told police the documents were genuine but he had obtained them by bribing officials in Honduras.



After being charged in relation to that fraud, he was freed on bail on condition he not apply for a passport.



However, he did so the day after he was charged, claiming he had lost the original despite it being seized by police.



Officers intercepted the passport and McErlean was arrested on the M6 in Staffordshire and later charged with fraudulently obtaining a passport.



He received a total of six years behind bars for fraud in relation to the insurance claim, two counts of theft in connection with the pension payments and for one count of fraudulently obtaining a passport.



The court heard the twice-married father has convictions dating back to 1963, including for robbery and possession of a firearm and dishonesty.



In mitigation, defence counsel Peter Alcock said he had been mired in financial difficulty since the death of his first wife following a terminal illness.



He said: "He is sorry for that which he has done.



"He at least made admissions when he was interviewed in respect of the life insurance count.



"He didn't in fact receive anything from the policy."









Following sentencing, Martin Bradbeer, the investigating officer from Kent Police's serious economic crime unit, said: "McErlean not only faked his own death to claim from an insurance company, but had been claiming pensions relating to his father-in-law from a previous marriage, who had died in March 2007.

"Kent Police investigates all kinds of fraud, which can be complex and lengthy cases.



"McErlean had gone to a great deal of trouble to make illegal financial gain. Anyone committing offences of this type will be brought before the courts."

PA

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?