A Cornwall councillor who is facing calls to resign after he falsely claimed he had an MBE has said he is the victim of a long-standing deception.
Terry Wilkins, Conservative councillor for Illogan, used the title on the council’s website and in official correspondence.
However, following an investigation by local newspaper the West Briton after local constituents voiced their concerns, the honours group said it had no record of Mr Wilkins being awarded an MBE.
Rachel Wells, of the Central Chancery of the Orders of Knighthood, told the newspaper: “Despite a search we can find no trace of any living person with the name Terence (or Terry, Terrence or Terrance) E Wilkins having received an MBE or any other British honour for which we hold records.
“Our records cover appointments to the Orders of the Garter, the Order of the Bath, the Order of St Michael and St George, the Royal Victorian Order and the Order of the British Empire.”
Following the allegations, Mr Wilkins claimed that he had been duped by an “aggrieved ex-colleague”. He said that he had reportedly received the honour while working for the Metropolitan Police 19 years ago, but that he had never attended the ceremony.
In an email to the West Briton, Mr Wilkins said: “I was shocked to discover that I have been the victim of an elaborate and malicious hoax over the awarding of the MBE.”
He added: “At the time I had no reason to question the validity of the correspondence and, as my late wife and I decided not to attend the investiture at Buckingham Palace, was subsequently sent a medal in the post.”
Mr Wilkins said he had tucked the medal away in a drawer because he was “embarrassed” but had later decided to embrace the title following encouragement from his present wife.
“The hoax came to light this week when you were contacted by a small number of local residents who had decided to launch an investigation into the awarding of the honour,” he said.
“Although I had previously had no reason to suspect that the award was not genuine, as soon as I was contacted by you I became concerned that I might have been the victim of a malicious act by a former colleague.
“I spent most of yesterday contacting former colleagues only to discover that my worst fears were true and that an aggrieved ex colleague had set out to deceive me.
“I don’t know why I did not question the official correspondence that I received at the time. Probably because I was overcome with feelings of pride and kudos.
“I asked my ex-colleagues why I wasn’t told the truth either at the time or afterwards and it seems that people and time moving on meant that it was lost in the ether.”
Mr Wilkins, who was elected to Cornwall Council in 2009, also had inconsistencies on his LinkedIn profile, where he claimed to have a pending Open University degree in social science.
However an Open University spokesman said: “Our records do indicate that nobody with his name has ever enrolled on a course at the university.”
Mr Wilkins admitted to the BBC that the LinkedIn claim was false. He said that he had been "playing a game" against someone he did not name.
"This person is jealous and I want to embarrass him," he said.
"I am completely innocent."
The Cornwall Coservative Party has said it is conducting an internal investigation into the matter.
Stephen Richardson, a fellow Illogan parish councillor, said that Mr Wilkins “should seriously consider his position”.
But Mr Wilkins told the BBC that he is not considering resigning. “I have sent a statement to all councillors and profusely apologised for unwittingly causing any embarrassment,” he said.
The statement added: “The fact that this hoax has gone on for 19 years has come as a huge shock to both me and my wife. As I said earlier, I have not used the honour for personal gain.
“I would like to apologise unreservedly to anyone who I may have unwittingly mislead in the past. I shall be removing all mention of the award on stationery and email addresses immediately.”