Camilla's royal cousin jailed after claiming disability benefit

A cousin of the Duchess of Cornwall has been jailed after a sheriff brushed away suggestions any psychiatric condition might be behind his fraud crimes.
The Duchess of CornwallThe Duchess of Cornwall
The Duchess of Cornwall

Dru Edmonstone, whose great-grandmother Alice Keppel – Edward VII’s mistress – is also Camilla’s great-grandmother, scammed the state, Stirling Council and the Royal Burgh of Kensington and Chelsea out of thousands of pounds over more than three years.

He initially denied his actions, but as the weight of the Crown case against him was disclosed he began to display “bizarre, inexplicable, extreme and at times concerning behaviour”.

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Edmonstone’s lawyer obtained a psychiatric report, but having read it said he did not “intend to submit that any condition my client suffers from materially contributed to his conduct in the commission of these charges”.

Edmonstone, 46, lived, until he was remanded in custody last month, in a house on a 6000-acre grouse-shooting estate that his family was gifted by King Robert III in 1435.

He fraudulently used the names of his own sister, ex-wife, a former housekeeper and an employee of his father, Sir Archibald Edmonstone – the 83-year-old 7th baronet of Duntreath – to submit bogus claims for income support, tax credits, carers’ allowance and disability living allowance.

The former financier also fraudulently claimed thousands of pounds in housing benefit, some for renting a mews cottage in London’s ultra-posh Kensingston.

Between January 2014 and April last year he pocketed £60,000, channeling the money into high-risk spread-betting.

Jailing him for 21 months yesterday, Sheriff Wyllie Robertson said a report by a psychiatrist revealed “a long history of deception and fraud”, including altering GPs’ prescriptions and fabricating evidence to a psychiatrist.

He told him: “You behaved deliberately, in a planned way, in a way which required you to maintain very detailed notes about how you had gone about things.

“To sustain a fraudulent scheme over a number of years, involving a number of different people, requires a degree of mental clarity, agility and ability that if you were mentally ill you might find it difficult to maintain.”

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Sheriff Robertson said Edmonstone, of Blanefield, Stirlingshire, had “a long history of manipulative behaviour and sociopathic behaviour rather than mental illness”.

He said: “The psychiatrist goes on to observe ‘it appears that his family has been colluding in trying to attract a diagnosis of mental illness as a way of excusing the patient from responsibility for his own behaviour’.

“Custody is the only appropriate disposal. You will go to prison for 21 months.”

Edmonstone, tieless in a smart suit and powder-blue shirt in the dock at Stirling Sheriff Court yesterday, shook visibly as the sentence was pronounced. He nodded to a solitary, middle-aged woman on the public benches -- apparently his only supporter in court -- before being led down to the cells.

Edmonstone was appearing for sentence after pleading guilty last month.

His solicitor John Mulholland said admission had saved a trial that would have consumed “weeks of court time” and required witnesses to travel from various parts of the UK.

Prosecutor Kyrsten Buist said the scam had come to light when his sister Elyssa Edmonstone, living abroad since 2010, made “a general inquiry about making additional payments to her UK national insurance account”.

She found the address the Department of Work and Pensions had for her was none that she had ever lived at, but was in fact her brother’s home.

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Miss Buist said: “She confronted him in the presence of their mother and he ultimately admitted he had made the claims using his sister’s name and her NI number.

“He signed a declaration admitting he had made the claims without her knowledge or consent and the admissions were recorded by his sister.”

DWP investigators found he had even made phone calls to them pretending to be Elyssa. When recordings of the calls were played back, they were “clearly not her” and in the opinion of DWP officials were in fact him.

The depute fiscal said Edmonstone had “made false claims for a variety of benefits using his name and the names of others he is linked to”.

In one scam, he claimed tax credit and disability living allowance (DLA) by pretending that he was looking after a 12-year-old child with disabling mental health difficulties, including autism, ADHD and depression.

The childwas neither living with him nor disabled in any way.

He produced a bogus letter in support of the DLA claim from the GP practice in Balfron, Stirlingshire, saying the accused was “fully responsible” for the child.

The letter was signed with a copy of the signature of local GP Dr Sarah Boddington, apparently scanned from a letter the doctor had actually written for Edmonstone, which had in fact said she could neither confirm nor refute the child lived with Edmonstone

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In January 2014, a telephone call was made to HMRC purporting to be from Edmonstone’s ex-wife Marie-Laurence Edmonstone, in respect of whom Edmonstone had falsely claimed tax credits and housing benefit.

A female caller claiming to be Marie-Laurence answered security questions before handing the phone to Edmonstone.

Miss Buist said: “The female caller has a Scottish accent, while his wife, in fact, is French.”

She added: “This fraud is not a case of failing to tell the council of a change of circumstances. The accused has made false declarations and has produced what is suspected to be false emails to support that claim.”

Examination of Edmsontone’s bank account showed many falsely-claimed payments coming in and “large payments going out, to a financial spread-betting company”.