Kent

Honduras 'crash death' man Anthony McErlean jailed

Anthony McErlean
Image caption Anthony McErlean had impersonated his wife to make the claim

A Kent man has been jailed after faking his own death in Central America in an attempt to get a £520,000 life insurance payout.

Anthony McErlean, 66, of Swarling Hill Road, Petham, was sentenced to six years at Canterbury Crown Court after admitting making a false claim.

The court heard he impersonated his wife to claim he had died after being struck by a truck in Honduras in 2009.

Police were alerted by the Insurance Fraud Bureau.

'Overweening greed'

Judge Adele Williams told McErlean: "This is deliberate and calculated fraud, not only from corporate bodies but also from the public.

"In my judgment, you were driven by a desire to gratify your own overweening greed.

"You sought to benefit at the expense of others."

McErlean, who was arrested before receiving any money, also admitted two counts of theft and false representation by claiming he had lost his passport.

The court heard he invented a witness who claimed to have been travelling with him to take rural wildlife photos.

A bogus witness statement said McErlean was struck by a produce truck while he changed a wheel on the car they were using.

Fake documents

Farm workers took him to the nearby village of Santa Rosa De Aguan where they took care of his body, it was claimed.

Fake official documents, including a death certificate, were also produced to back up a death benefit claim in the name of his wife.

Donna East, prosecuting, said: "The defendant took out an accidental death policy with Ace European insurance and the policy was for £520,000.

"In January 2010 the company received documents reputing to come from his wife stating that her husband had been killed in a car crash in Honduras on December 6, 2009 and had been cremated.

Image caption McErlean produced fake documents, including a death certificate

"The paperwork had been forwarded to Ace by a friend of the wife who was acting as her agent in the UK while the wife stayed in Honduras."

Ms East added: "The company expressed some suspicions about the claim particularly in view of the fact that they had asked for the defendant's passport and that was declined, so they placed the matter in the hands of the police for investigation."

McErlean's fingerprints were found on the death certificate during tests.

The court was told the twice-married father had previous convictions, including for robbery and possession of a firearm and dishonesty, dating back to 1963.

'Financial difficulties'

Detectives found McErlean with a credit card in the name of Green when they arrested him.

Peter Alcock, defending, said he had experienced financial difficulties since his first wife died following a terminal illness.

He added: "He is sorry for that which he has done.

"He at least made admissions when he was interviewed in respect of the life insurance count.

"He didn't in fact receive anything from the policy."

The court was also told McErlean told detectives after he was arrested that his wife had no knowledge of what he had done in her name.

Martin Bradbeer, of Kent Police's Serious Economic Crime Unit, said: "McErlean not only faked his own death to claim from an insurance company but had been claiming pensions relating to his father-in-law from a previous marriage, who had died in March 2007."

He added: "McErlean had gone to a great deal of trouble to make illegal financial gain."

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