Scottish Daily Mail
£3m dodgy mortgages of fraudster who collects mansions
A FORMER bricklayer living on benefits spun a web of deceit to pose as a wealthy tycoon seeking to buy magnificent country mansions.
William Davenport, 60, fooled aristocrats and financiers in a sophisticated £2.9million fraud and conned a council into selling him the Grade II listed childhood home of former Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden.
In reality he was a near-penniless conman – and yesterday a judge condemned him as ‘a thoroughly dishonest and greedy man’.
Davenport had a string of bankruptcies and dodgy property deals behind him – including buying Middleton Hall, in Midlothian.
Yesterday his years of pretence finally caught up with him when he was jailed for six years at Teesside Crown Court after admitting three counts of fraud. It emerged Davenport had years earlier taken his elderly mother’s £120,000 life savings after telling her he was buying a French chateau and would repay her from an impending £5million software deal with Richard Branson. The court heard how Davenport fraudulently bought Windlestone Hall, a mansion once belonging to the Eden family, in 2011.
He convinced owners Durham County Council he was a wealthy businessman and they agreed a bargain price of £241,000. At the time of his arrest, Davenport was trying to sell it for £2.5million.
He claimed he had previously lived in the £1million Great Brampton House in Herefordshire.
But he had simply hoodwinked owners Lord and Lady Pidgeon into believing he was buying their home and then used the address to convince financiers of his wealth.
With the council fooled into the sale of Windlestone, Davenport went to Barclays to find the cash and tricked the bank into providing a £500,000 loan.
He used a grant from the council to help with renovation of the hall to make it look like a large salary was going into his account. He then applied for loans totalling £900,000 to redevelop the hall and a £1.5million mortgage to buy Ayton Castle in Northumberland.
But prosecutor Joanne Kidd said an ‘eagle-eyed’ mortgage clerk spotted a discrepancy on a forged document and the fraud ‘collapsed like a pack of cards’. Davenport was arrested in November 2014 at Windlestone Hall.
Miss Kidd said he was claiming disability living allowance at the time of the fraud and ‘living hand to mouth’ with his family.
Judge Simon Bourne-Arton told him: ‘This was a sophisticated fraud, it was well planned, well executed and it extended over a signifi- cant period of time. Throughout you have been a thoroughly dishonest and greedy man.’
Although this was his first criminal conviction, Davenport’s dodgy dealings dating back more than a decade have meant he is no stranger to civil courts.
Police discovered he bought a Newmarket stud farm in 2002 under the name Bill Green, only to vanish six months later when a bankruptcy petition was filed.
In 2004, he bought Middleton Hall, posing again as a wealthy American, and disappeared leaving debts of £93,000 to a bank.
Outside court, Sergeant Rob Pollard of Durham Police said: ‘Davenport spun a web of lies in an elaborate fraud befitting a film plot.
‘He concocted a labyrinthine web of deceit to fraudulently obtain cash to buy historic property. This reallife Walter Mitty clearly thought he was above the law.’
‘Dishonest and greedy man’