Ostrich farm owner conned investors in £300,000 scam

Making your fortune by investing in an ostrich farm in South Wales always seemed an unlikely proposition. But money poured in from more than 100 investors, lured by a glossy brochure and the promise of profits of 70 per cent a year.

Yesterday, with Evans' Ostrich Centre exposed as a classic fraud, the woman behind the scam was given a two-year suspended sentence and banned from running a company for 10 years after being convicted of stealing more than £300,000. Swansea Crown Court was told that her husband had jumped bail - probably to Spain - where he was being sought by police. An arrest warrant has been issued.

Judge Michael Burr said he had no doubt the ostrich farm, run by Esther and Martin Evans, was never anything other than a scam. "I am satisfied that the whole ostrich farm was set up from the beginning as a dishonest means of depriving investors of their money," he said.

The court had been told that Evans, 36, from Swansea, and her 38-year-old husband Martin - a lover of the "high life" and once named as Wales's young businessman of the year - had set up the farm at Dunvant, near Swansea, in 1995.

They advertised in national newspapers with the slogan "Ostrich Nest Egg". And the investors came, pouring in hundreds of thousands of pounds in the hope that the low-fat, BSE-free ostrich meat was the perfect alternative to beef or lamb. It is believed a number of elderly people invested their life savings. But what the investors did not know was that Martin Evans had just been released from prison where he had served 15 months for obtaining property by deception.

A total of 115 people invested an aggregate sum of £875,000 before the holding company was declared insolvent in July 1996. By then, £329,000 had been channelled into offshore accounts in Jersey and the Bahamas.

At this point an element of farce entered the proceedings. Angry investors formed a raiding party and showed up at Bevexe Fawr Farm and snatched a number of birds by way of compensation.

Carl Farrell, a retired designer, from the West Midlands, invested £13,500 in the scheme. He got back £1,800 from thesale of two hen ostriches taken during the raid. While tryingto recover the birds he found piles of dead ostrich chicks behind the sheds.

"They were not being fed the right vitamins and I don't think they had anybody experienced in looking after ostriches," he said. "I feel very angry about it - no one likes being conned. I genuinely thought there might a be a future for ostrich farming. It is a thriving industry in South Africa and Australia."

Mr Farrell said that although he was initially impressed by the brochure, when he wrote later asking for a report on his investments, all he received was a series of recipe cards.

Other investors are unlikely to receive a penny. Detectives who investigated the case said the money in the offshore accounts had now gone.

The judge told Evans - who was found guilty of four charges of theft and one of fraudulent trading - that he did not believe she was the "innocent dupe" she had pretended to be.

He accepted, however, that she had been manipulated by her husband, who dreamt up the idea while he was an inmate at Usk open prison.

External links: Ostrich Farming Video Page | Ostrich Online | Ostrich farming | Farming systems | Ostrich farming in the EU, a feasibility study | The world's most comprehensive farming system |

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there