Conman cheats dying friend out of half a million

Jonathan Speirs was 'cruelly' conned. Picture: Colin Hattersley
Jonathan Speirs was 'cruelly' conned. Picture: Colin Hattersley
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THE widow of a man who was conned out of almost half a million pounds by a friend has condemned the fraudster as a “despicable man”.

Renowned architect and lighting designer Jonathan Speirs was persuaded to part with a total of £476,864 by friend and neighbour Keith Cameron through a complicated scam described by a judge as “wicked and cruel beyond the comprehension of any right-thinking person”.

I’m just very grateful that the jury saw through him

Elizabeth Speirs

Now Mr Speirs’ widow Elizabeth has said the crime has left the family bereft and forced her to sell the family home, on Edinburgh’s Ferry Road, which she shared with her husband for 24 years.

Cameron, 54, conned Mr Spiers – who was dying of stomach cancer – out of thousands of pounds by claiming his company, Chase Telecom Ltd, required money to win a valuable contract to supply telecom services.

The businessman, who was a close family friend of the Speirs and had previously been the European boss of US communications group Global Crossing, repeatedly claimed the company was trading well and that investors had pumped millions of pounds into the business.

He insisted Mr Speirs could expect to receive a return on his investment of around £2 million within two years and even talked him into paying a further £1,595 along with an administration fee of £269 to increase his shareholding in the company to 10 per cent.

But it later emerged the entire operation was an elaborate lie and that Cameron, of Russell Place, Trinity, Edinburgh, had been using Mr Spiers’ cash to pay for expensive holidays.

The father-of-two, who has now been declared bankrupt, was found guilty of fraud at Edinburgh Sheriff Court on Wednesday and will be sentenced next month. Mrs Speirs said the scheme had left her and her two daughters in “dire straits financially.”

She said: “It hasn’t quite sunk in – I’m just very grateful that the jury saw through him.

“He’s just a despicable man, and what he did to my husband – who was a good man – is just awful, and the financial situation he has left us in is awful. I’m going to have to sell my house soon, as I can’t afford to stay.

“I never got a chance to grieve for my husband because I found this out rightaway. I feel like I have been robbed of so much in my life – my husband, a friend, and the chance to build a new life for me and my daughters.

“My husband had withdrawn money from a policy that he had taken out in case either he or his [business] partner became ill, so that he could exit his company without any financial impact.”

Mr Speirs was a renowned architect whose work in lighting design illuminated buildings including the Millennium Dome and Gherkin in London, and Dubai’s spectacular Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world.

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