Colonel not often seen, hear­ing told

Western Daily Press - - News - ROD MINCHIN news@west­erndai­ly­press.co.uk

NEIGH­BOURS of an Army colonel ac­cused of fraud­u­lently claim­ing nearly £100,000 in al­lowances to send his chil­dren to a lead­ing pub­lic school in the West Coun­try have told a court mar­tial they did not often see him at his mil­i­tary ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Colonel Roddy Lee had been al­lo­cated a house at RAF Odi­ham in Hampshire, which was a con­ve­nient lo­ca­tion for his job in An­dover and his reg­u­lar travel to White­hall.

Lee was en­ti­tled to claim the Army’s con­ti­nu­ity of ed­u­ca­tion al­lowance, which en­ables ser­vice per­son­nel to send chil­dren to board­ing school to pre­vent dis­rup­tion to school­ing caused by post­ings around the UK and abroad.

Dur­ing the aca­demic year 2015/16, he claimed £98,306.80 in school fees and sent his two older chil­dren to Marl­bor­ough Col­lege and the younger chil­dren to prep schools in Wilt­shire and Dorset.

To re­ceive the al­lowance, Lee’s wife had to live with him in his ser­vice ac­com­mo­da­tion but pros­e­cu­tors al­lege she lived in a house they owned near De­vizes, Wilt­shire.

The court mar­tial in Bul­ford, Wilt­shire, heard neigh­bours of Lee at RAF Odi­ham say they did not often see him or his fam­ily af­ter they moved there in Novem­ber 2015.

Sa­man­tha Hig­gins, who lived next door, said: “The cur­tains were al­ways closed and if a house is empty on a mil­i­tary base the cur­tains are open.

“It was win­ter and the cur­tains were shut and the win­dows were shut. There was no steam com­ing out from the boiler. There was never any signs of life.”

The mother-of-two, who worked from home, said she would see Lee and his wife’s cars parked out­side the prop­erty in the morn­ings.

She said in early 2016 she wanted to “pinch” some bin space af­ter Christ­mas and used Lee’s dust­bin.

“I went and put my bin out and Mr Lee’s bin was out and his lid was not open, and I opened it up and there was a half-full bin bag in there for a fort­night,” she said.

Mrs Hig­gins said that in win­ter 2015 she took in a par­cel for Lee and it re­mained at her house for eight weeks with no one col­lect­ing it be­fore she left it on his doorstep. On an­other oc­ca­sion, she saw a man in a cam­ou­flage uni­form mow­ing Lee’s lawn and it was not him.

Mrs Hig­gins agreed she was “un­able to say for sure” how many times she saw Lee and his fam­ily at the prop­erty.

Puneet Rai, de­fend­ing, said: “It is fair to say you could have missed sight­ings of them?”

She replied: “I could have done.” Ang­harad Davis, who lived in the ad­ja­cent semi-de­tached house to Lee, said she would not have recog­nised him, telling the court: “I didn’t re­ally see him when he was liv­ing next door to us. I was just aware of a tall man.

“I saw him more af­ter the po­lice started com­ing around. Some­times I would see him late at night com­ing to the house and the car would be gone be­fore peo­ple left for school.

“I never heard any chil­dren play­ing in the gar­den or saw any­one com­ing back from school.”

The mother-of-three said she did not hear any noise from Lee’ss home

Colonel Roddy Lee

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