An ordinary tale of a conman who went too far

Mr Hammond's mistake was in enjoying the fantasy too much and not exploiting the delusion

Share
Related Topics

Mostly harmless, Michael Hammond's story is not really all that unlike that of several people of our acquaintance. He just went a little far. To recapitulate: Mr Hammond was a man from an ordinary Sussex background, who decided one day that to be Michael Hammond was not quite good enough.

Mostly harmless, Michael Hammond's story is not really all that unlike that of several people of our acquaintance. He just went a little far. To recapitulate: Mr Hammond was a man from an ordinary Sussex background, who decided one day that to be Michael Hammond was not quite good enough.

At some point, he took to hanging out in terrible London nightclubs, where celebrities gather. With a slightly tweaked name - Michael Edwards-Hammond - he started turning up in gossip columns. What was he? Described at various points as a "film consultant", a "theatre producer" and, more desperately, a "Brit smoothie", he was obviously some sort of celebrity.

Well, the standards demanded by gossip columns for proof of achievement are not necessarily very rigorous, and a nice-looking man like Michael proved an irregular adornment to the society pages. His stories of having had affairs with Jordan and Dannii Minogue didn't even seem that unlikely.

Soon he was having his photograph taken with Elton John, his plausibility massively enhanced by a £105,000 Mercedes on the never-never and a rented penthouse. Setting his sights higher, he started going to polo matches, managing to have photographs taken next to the Wales princes. Sky Sports fell for it, and let him front a programme about polo from Windsor.

It must have sunk in about this time that he was no longer masquerading as a celebrity and a TV presenter: he had become one. In search of bigger thrills, last February he phoned the City of London police. I just want to imagine the telephone conversation here. "Hello, my name is Dr Eli Silva." "Yes, hello, who's this?" "I'm a top surgeon." "Oh, yes?" "I'm on my way to carry out a life-saving operation on a child." "On a child?" "Yes, and I need a police escort to get me through the traffic because the traffic's bleeding terrible." "Where is this operation taking place, sir?" "Chinawhite." "No problem, Dr Silva."

Luckily for sick children everywhere, Mr Hammond didn't use his surgeon persona for anything more important than getting through the rush hour. But the trouble really started when he started phoning up the police, pretending to be a police officer. Under his instructions, innocent members of the public were searched, whole Asian families taken into custody, and he was allowed to wander at will through the grounds of Windsor Castle, pretending to be a police officer searching for a notorious sex offender.

At this point, inevitably, the whole marvellous fantasy fell to the ground. What I love about daft Mr Hammond's silly story is its quality of the utmost randomness. Most such people who turn up in court from time to time, having claimed to be the Duke of Hensher and having tried to pass off photographs of Blenheim Palace as their country home, are after money.

Not Mr Hammond. Apart from obtaining stuff, like the Mercedes, which he couldn't afford, it is very difficult to see what he got out of his adventures except exactly that, an adventure. He doesn't seem to have stuck around long enough to have slept with anyone famous, preferring to claim that he'd slept with people he hadn't; he wasted a lot of people's time, and made himself look more important than he really was. If there's a better definition of a real Met Bar "celebrity", I can't think of it.

Actually, though Mr Hammond took his way of life to extremes, there is something very ordinary about his story. I went to Oxford University in 1983, two years after the television dramatization of Brideshead Revisited and at the height of the ludicrous "Sloane Ranger" obsession. It was quite common, at that time, for people to turn up with hastily-assembled double-barrelled names, to lie blatantly about their origins and schools, and say "orf" more often than seemed strictly necessary.

At the end of term, their perfectly nice parents, having driven up from Nottingham in the hatchback to pick up Sandra who had done so well, would quite often be astonished to find that their daughter was now called Alexandra. One boy I knew tried very hard to convince everyone that the lady with the rich Black Country vowels who turned up at the end of term was, in fact, his loyal old nanny.

The shocking thing is that, in some cases, these preposterous fantasies went unmodified into adult life. Having persuaded contemporaries that they were extremely posh, they sometimes persuaded employers and fiancés of entirely fictitious histories and names and, pretty soon after leaving university, were almost as posh as they had pretended.

Mr Hammond's mistake, really, was in enjoying the fantasy too much, and not exploiting the delusion as most fantasists do, never making it to court. If he had carried on at the Met Bar, who could say that he wouldn't, in time, have had a real affair with a starlet; been invited to produce a film in reality; paid off the Mercedes and the flat; become rich and famous and a polo- playing friend of Harry Wales?

Odder things have happened; and the fashionable end of London is full of people who have concealed fathers who are Sussex decorators, with complicated new names and an exotic new accent. And very few of them are unlucky, like Lord Archer, and go to prison.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SSRS Report Developer - Urgent Contract - London - £300pd

£300 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: SSRS Report Developer – 3 Mon...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

HR Business Partner - Essex - £39,000 plus benefits

£32000 - £39000 per annum + benefits + bonus: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Man...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel like your sales role...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The influx of hundreds of thousands of eastern European workers has significantly altered the composition of some parts of Britain  

Immigration is the issue many in Labour fear most

Nigel Morris
The Lord Mayor of London Fiona Woolf heads the inquiry  

Why should Fiona Woolf be expected to remember every dinner date?

Mark Steel
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster