Sunday, December 18, 2011
Vulnerable & Scammed - Man Commits Suicide
(U.K.) When lonely divorcee Philip Hunt fell for a beautiful woman on an internet dating site he thought all his prayers had been answered.
She convinced him she was young, fabulously rich and if he could help transfer $2.9million from Nigeria to the UK then they could start a new life together, an inquest heard today.
Unfortunately it was all an elaborate scam that would cost Mr Hunt £82,000 and ultimately his life.
The 58-year-old was hooked on the fantasy of a future with the stunning 'Rose' and he willingly paid out tens of thousands of pounds to help her beat malaria and get her funds through customs and into the UK.
The cargo officer remortgaged his house, took out loans, ran up overdrafts and begged for cash from his employers after repeatedly transferring money across to the fraudsters' account.
Eventually he became so hopelessly mired in debt that he committed suicide by lying down in front of a train.
Although warned by a former girlfriend that he was the victim of a 'scam', Mr Hunt appeared to believe in Rose until the very end.
His mobile phone was found in a rucksack near his body and a text message to Rose - which was never sent - read: 'I'm cold, lonely and depressed, I'm so lonely without you tonight. Going to meet my maker..'
Twice-married Mr Hunt went online in search of love after splitting up with girlfriend of three years Lesley Smith. He began exchanging texts and emails with Rose, who claimed to be living in Nigeria. She sent him a picture of herself and he quickly fell in love with the attractive white brunette. Over the months that followed Mr Hunt was tricked into thinking Rose was seriously ill and in desperate need of his help. The prize was the rest of his life with her and her cash.
Each time he came close to arranging a meeting with 'Rose' the anonymous criminals behind the 'romance scam' demanded further cash for hotels, medical bills and travel expenses to the UK. He even travelled to London to meet two of the fraudsters who claimed they needed money for an expensive solution which would magically turn scrap paper into $100 bills.
Mr Hunt met two 'agents' at the Travelodge near London's City Airport. He was greeted by two large men who opened a case containing scraps of black and grey paper. One of the men then sprayed a note with a mystery substance which seemed to turn the filthy paper into a $100 in front of his eyes - convincing him to hand over more money to pay for the chemical spray.
Mr Hunt began wiring over money in December 2008. At one stage he asked to borrow £25,000 from his employer, a shipping company at Immingham Docks, but later retracted the request and resigned from his job.
His last contact with the fraudsters was in June last year and he died on August 13 when he was hit by a train and suffered multiple injuries.
Police investigating his death found a handwritten note at his home in Grimsby addressed to them, which read: 'I just can't take it any more.' They also found bundles of emails outlining the huge scale of the fraud and a message predicting his own suicide. He wrote: 'I have insurmountable debts and will take my own life.'
A jury at the inquest in Hull returned a verdict of suicide.
After the hearing former girlfriend Miss Smith said: 'These people are out to get people when they are very vulnerable, they are like vultures. I'd like to alert people to this so they can be aware and be cautious. Philip was a quiet and reserved gentleman, and he was very intelligent which makes it all the more unbelievable that he fell for this, but he was at a low ebb and they got him when he was most vulnerable.'
Detective Chief Inspector Danny Snee, of British Transport Police, said: 'People need to be very wary, if something looks too good to be true it usually is. They should be particularly wary about parting with money with someone they have never met, it just doesn't ring true. The demands for money for supposed medical bills, hotel bills and travel expenses were endless.'
He said a criminal investigation into the international fraudsters was ongoing, although no arrests have been made.