No happy ending for this lady's fairytale

IT had all the ingredients of a perfect fairytale. A handsome lord and his beautiful lady, a whirlwind romance and a £50m inheritance to look forward to.

Their home was to become a country stately mansion, a cosseted place in one of Scotland's proudest families whose heritage stretched back to their forefather, Robert the Bruce.

No wonder American visitor Amanda Movius wasted no time in saying "yes" to lovestruck Lord Charles Bruce's marriage proposal. All that luxury, social status and money at her fingertips, it was a world away from her ordinary Alaskan origins.

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Blue blood ties and bountiful privileges . . . looking back now, did they give the charming, smart blonde a taste for the finer things she just couldn't live without?

Was that the first step on a twisted, turning, tangled road that would ultimately wind its way – via Hollywood A-list celebrities, fake holiday homes, various scams that chewed up one shocked victim after the other – to Woodman State Jail, Gatesville, Texas?

That is where the former Lady Bruce is today. For this one-time Lady of the manor, the fairytale has yet to have its happy ending.

And as more of her unfortunate acquaintances gather evidence via internet forums which angrily buzz with lurid claims of her alleged scams and lies which stretch the length of America, the chances are the 15 months she spends in jail may not be her last.

Not that the news that Amanda Bruce, aka Movius, aka Grimes – just some of the names she's used in the past – is finally behind bars after two years on the run from a Washington court, will bring comfort to her Edinburgh victims for whom her time running a William Street childrenswear shop and renting a smart New Town abode in Melville Street ended with them seriously out of pocket.

Her six years marriage to one of the country's most eligible aristocrats had just ended abruptly but Amanda wasn't giving up her lifestyle easily. She became known for her designer clothes, her sports car and her lavish spending.

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But soon her high society lifestyle began to unravel, money ran out and neighbours at her New Town home pinned notices to their entrance door warning the stream of upset creditors who came calling, not to bother.

The Lady, it seemed, had vanished.

For the 50 people and firms including Edinburgh City Council and clothing suppliers in Europe affected, it seems there's no hope they will ever retrieve any of the estimated 130,000-plus that she owed when she fled the city in the summer of 2000. Lothian and Borders Police say her name is not one they are familiar with.

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Among those left in her wake, however, was Michael Hart, a furniture maker with whom she struck up a relationship in the aftermath of her separation. He was said to have been left thousands of pounds out of pocket.

If he has bitter memories of crossing paths with Amanda Movius, he's keeping them to himself. Told that she was now in a Texan jail for various crimes of deception, he responded: "I'm not interested. Thanks."

Ten years and thousands of miles separate her early Edinburgh associates from Los Angeles where two of the former Lady's most recent acquaintances are still licking their emotional – and physical – wounds.

One man who fell for her charms claims his life has been wrecked after she made false accusations against him that led to his arrest. Photographer Matthew Kees says Movius then raided his finances and sold his belongings.

While in jail he was attacked, today he pops Prozac and sees a psychiatrist to help him cope.

"I plan on bringing my own charges against the District Attorney, the police department, and maybe even the judge, who were aware of her fraud soon after I was locked up," he says. "They allowed her to continue with her scams and caused me to lose my apartment in Hollywood, my business, my reputation and my sanity.

"Plus two teeth while being held in maximum security."

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Another victim is Catharine Hamm, a savvy journalist who works as travel editor for the Los Angeles Times. The last person likely to be duped into paying around 3,000 in rent for use of a property in Hawaii for her wedding, yet even she fell for the slick and charming Amanda.

She traced the background of the affable woman who'd taken her cash and then vanished – and discovered a tangled background that spanned continents and left a trail of unhappiness in her wake.

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"She was very bright and extremely intelligent," she says. "Most of us go from point A to B to C, but she goes from A and then all over the place.

"In a way I do admire her – anyone who can handle all that information and keep ahead of it, it takes quite a mind to do it. She's a fascinating character."

Indeed, there is more to the former Lady than might seem. Her arrival in Edinburgh in the mid-1990s – when she set mingled with some of the country's highest profile VIPs – hid a tragic secret.

She was just a teenager when she found her alcoholic mother's body lying in the bath. Soon she'd fled Alaska bound first for Hawaii, then Scotland where she threw herself into the celebrations marking the Forth Bridge anniversary.

If there were warning signs, like suggestions she'd been "stalking" snooker ace Stephen Hendry by following him to hotel rooms, then Charles Bruce didn't heed them.

Lord Bruce – whose ancestor the 7th Earl of Elgin was responsible for the controversial removal of statues from the Acropolis in Greece known as the Elgin Marbles – proposed within six weeks. A few months later they were man and wife.

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Three children followed – Antonia, now 18, James, aged 17 and the youngest, George, 15.

At one stage she may have craved the life of a British Lady, but in one interview after her messy divorce in which she was branded "a moneygrabber", Amanda spoke of feeling suffocated by the grand society life she'd woven.

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She fled to America where she flitted from marriage to a millionaire to various cons and scams. Her trail stretched from Washington where a warrant for her arrest remains outstanding to Hollywood where she set up a concierge "do it all" service and claimed to be a scriptwriter.

Her smooth-talking certainly appears to have opened doors – one photograph shows her posing on the set of A Scanner Darkly alongside film stars Robert Downie Jnr and Keanu Reeves.

Eventually she headed to Texas, where earlier this month three counts of theft and one of identity fraud ended two years on the run.

Detective Carl Satterlee of Austin Police Department has taken various calls and received many e-mails from people claiming they, too, fell victim to the former wife of one of Scotland's leading aristocrats.

The officer recalls her as a woman of distinct poise, indeed, almost ladylike.

"She was really nice, she held herself in that certain way, as if she was still in Scotland and a Lady. She was very proper. She denied everything," he says.

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"You could see how people could be taken in by her – you could tell she has a very persuasive personality."

One which her former husband could well be trying to forget – yesterday at his 18th century home, Abbey House, in Culross, Lord Charles Bruce said simply: "I've no comment to make."

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As for Det Satterlee, even when she told him the truth, he wasn't sure of what he was hearing. "I was told she was married to a Lord and I thought, 'yeah, sure, whatever'. Then I spoke to him (Lord Bruce] and he said, 'yes, unfortunately'," he adds. "I suppose there are bad memories there for him."


THE Bruce family's history can be traced to Robert the Bruce, but it is the Seventh Earl of Elgin who is perhaps best known in modern times.

In 1802 he was responsible for having marble friezes removed from the Parthenon and shipped home to Scotland – to adorn his new country residence on the outskirts of Dunfermline, Broomhall.

They became known as the Elgin Marbles. They are currently on show at the British Museum – and still at the centre of heated debate between the governments of Britain and Greece over their potential return.

The current 11th Earl of Elgin – 19th great grandson of Robert the Bruce – can also trace his ancestry to William the Conqueror, Alfred the Great, and Henry I of England.