Tayside and Central Scotland

Man admits £130,000 wedding booking fraud

Craig Williamson Image copyright Kingdom News Agency
Image caption Craig Williamson, right, used money from wedding bookings to finance his gambling habit

A wedding planner has admitted defrauding more than £130,000 from dozens of couples booking ceremonies at an Angus castle.

A court heard Craig Williamson went on the run to Ibiza after telling Guthrie Castle colleagues he was visiting his father in Glasgow.

Some couples' events were double booked and others left in limbo weeks before their weddings.

Williamson, 42, was remanded in custody ahead of sentencing on 13 September.

Dundee Sheriff Court was told that he had used some of the money to finance his gambling habit.

The court heard that the castle's owner Dan Pena has had to cover refunds and honour bookings that Williamson had taken.

'Upset and stressed'

Image caption Guthrie Castle's owner had to cover the cost of refunding the couples Williamson defrauded

One bride paid £19,000 to Williamson and found out her wedding was not on the books only a week before the event, but it went ahead after Mr Pena met the cost.

Another discovered her wedding was treble booked for a date in July, forcing her to reschedule for later in the year.

The mother of a third bride gave almost £19,000 to Williamson for a wedding booked more than 18 months in advance, but which the castle had no record of.

Depute fiscal Eilidh Robertson told the court that brides were left "upset and stressed".

Miss Robertson said Williamson was hired as castle and estate manager in November 2014.

In early April this year he told colleagues he was going to visit his father in Glasgow, but did not return their calls.

A missing person's inquiry was launched and it was established Williamson had withdrawn £6,000 in cash and boarded a Eurostar train to Paris before travelling to Ibiza.

Gambling debts

The fiscal said: "It was also established he was spending at least several hundred pounds a week gambling, on some days spending £5,000 on gambling alone."

The court heard Williamson, who later handed himself in to police, took bookings for weddings without informing anyone else at the venue or making any preparations for the events.

Williamson had given the couples his own bank account details and the sums were transferred by them directly into his account as opposed to the castle's business account.

Miss Robertson said: "In total, 39 bridal parties had paid a total of around £130,000 to the accused.

"As of now, not all of the bridal parties have been identified, partly as no paperwork can be found which relates to their bookings and partly as some of the bridal parties are based abroad.

"Mr Pena made the decision not to accept any bookings for weddings at the venue after December 2017 and has refunded some customers from his own pocket.

"Mr Pena has been liable for all staff and catering costs of the weddings that he has honoured.

"He told police that he may require to file his company as bankrupt in the future to meet all payments."

Williamson, a prisoner at HMP Perth, admitted a charge of fraud committed between July 2015 and April 2017.

Sheriff Alastair Carmichael deferred sentence for social work reports.

Guthrie Castle declined to comment on the case.

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