Love-struck OAP stole £160k from mistress to fund ‘aspiring pop star’
AN INFATUATED 78-year-old plundered £160,000 from his mistress to fund a fantasy affair with an ‘aspiring pop star’ 50 years his junior, a court heard.
Former Rotary Club president Peter Lawrence persuaded Sheila Losack, 80, to re-mortgage her flat twice, and stole around 60 items of her jewellery worth £5,000 to £7,000 to pawn.
The retired surveyor took a further £63,000 from the property company which managed Miss Losack’s home.
All of the money was sent to Tia Mehari, a Swedish girl he met in London when she was 19 after she asked him for directions, the court heard.
The pensioner invited her to join him for a coffee and she allegedly revealed she had ambitions to be a pop star under the stage name Nefertiti, after the ancient Egyptian queen.
But Miss Mehari, now 27, who lives in Gothenburg, said yesterday that she was only ever an aspiring singer ‘in his mind’.
But Lawrence, who called her ‘Nefe’, became besotted. He sent her another £50,000 – his share of his former marital home – and ‘borrowed’ another £10,000 from his sister. Miss Mehari said she had asked the pensioner to stop sending her money ‘but he then threatened to kill himself’.
Lawrence was jailed for five years at Croydon Crown Court and ordered to pay £ 10,500 compensation after admitting six counts of theft and six of fraud.
Retired civil servant Miss Losack has been left financially ruined.
But Lawrence, of Croydon, South London, showed no emotion as he was sentenced. He maintains he is still in love with Miss Mehari, and continues to send her £700 to £1,200 per month from his private pension.
Outside court before sentencing, he said of meeting Miss Mehari: ‘ That moment certainly changed my life. She’s lovely. Have you ever been in love?’ The father of two had a 20-year relationship with Miss Losack during his marriage, the court heard.
She owned flats in Croydon and agreed he could move in while divorcing his wife because of affairs he had.
But Claire Robinson, prosecuting, said Miss Losack found out he was having an affair with a woman in Sweden and their relationship ended.
Yet he continued to live in her spare bedroom rent- free, and on Miss Losack’s recommendation he became secretary of the property firm, giving him full access to the bank account. Miss Robinson added: ‘He asked her for money and for loans, and because she felt sorry for him she agreed, but he never paid her back.’
During an illness he helped Miss Losack with her finances, setting up online bank accounts and learning of her investments and assets.
Miss Robinson said: ‘For the next four years [2009-2013] he systematically helped himself to money from those accounts and stole her jewellery and from residents of [the flats]. When she confronted him … Lawrence became angry and told her he needed the money and to “get over it”.’
He withdrew thousands of pounds from Miss Losack’s store credit cards – and persuaded her to re-mortgage in sums of £57,000 and £25,000 to fund decorating and repairs, but stole the lot. He also used her online banking to transfer £59,000 to himself. She reported him to police in 2013.
Miss Robinson added: ‘She has found herself virtually bankrupt...The standard of living she worked all her life to achieve has been taken away.’
Miss Mehari, born in Sweden to Ethiopian immigrants, said she believed Lawrence was a ‘wealthy man, not a thief’, adding: ‘He became like a father-figure to me. It was never about anything else on my behalf … He was obsessed in some ways.’
Fiona Dunkley, defending Lawrence, said he had developed an ‘infatuation’ with ‘Nefe’ adding: ‘This was a fantasy relationship that was never consummated, but took over Mr Lawrence’s life and rational thought processes.’
A doctor said the ‘Nefe fantasy’ protects Lawrence against the guilt of reality and possible suicide attempts, the court heard.
Obsession: Tia Mehari, whom the pensioner knew as ‘Nefe’
Besotted: Peter Lawrence