When charming conman and bon vivant Mogens Hauschildt fled Britain for the Côte d’Azur, ahead of his trial for swindling a blind widow out of her home and fortune, he wrote to his lawyer saying: “I simply can’t bear to be locked up.”
Three years later, after a manhunt around Europe, that is the fate now awaiting him.
The Danish financial adviser, who was convicted in his absence in 2009 of a catalogue of deception and theft charges that left his 90-year-old victim facing destitution, has been finally tracked down. He had given up his luxurious existence on the French Riviera – immortalised by Somerset Maugham as a “sunny place for shady people” – and was hiding out in Germany.
The arrest of the 71-year-old fraudster near the picturesque town of Goslar, near Hamburg, will come as a relief to officers at Scotland Yard, who saw Hauschildt freed from their custody on the orders of a High Court judge prior to his conviction and thereafter had to chase him across Europe as he repeatedly failed to turn up for interviews and court hearings.
The serving of a European Arrest Warrant on the septuagenarian con artist, who claims to have known celebrities including John Lennon and now faces a lengthy prison term in Britain, draws a line under a string of offences which saw him target wealthy elderly victims, including Pamela Schutzmann, the widow of a London jeweller.
Mrs Schutzmann, who had jewellery and belongings worth £400,000 taken by Hauschildt as well as being duped into surrendering her £800,000 north London home, and is registered blind, today told The Independent she was relieved that the conman is behind bars. She was handed back custody of her house shortly before Christmas but has yet to see the money or valuables.
“I am pleased that they have finally caught up with him,” she said. “It has been a long, long wait. This man wormed his way into my life and gained my trust, only to then steal, literally from under my nose. I cannot see well and he helped himself to jewellery in my own home.
“I am 90 years old and I did not expect to spend my final days trying to secure my own home, my own belongings and worrying that he would one day turn up again. He even managed to change the locks to my own house.”
Hauschildt, who was jailed for five years in his native Denmark in the 1980s for a commercial fraud, had inveigled his way into Mrs Schutzmann’s confidence after he started a relationship with her former au pair, Romana Labunski, who died in 2008. Hauschildt claimed that Mrs Schutzmann was the victim of a burglary during a visit by her to his French villa in 2005 and listed nearly £60,000 worth of jewellery, including a £15,000 watch and a £10,000 Cartier-style necklace, in a report to local gendarmes.
During his trial at Wood Green Crown Court in London, jurors were told Hauschildt persuaded the widow to make him her financial adviser, remortgaging her home and then transferring it to his own Panamanian company.
Hauschildt, who set up a website professing his innocence of the charges, is nonetheless unlikely to see the inside of a British prison soon as he is contesting his extradition from Germany.