Castle owner forgives £130,000 wedding fraudster

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Dan Pena said: "I would say to Craig, we believed in you, you took advantage of our good faith."

The owner of an Angus castle says he has forgiven a former employee who stole £130,000 from couples booking weddings at the venue.

Craig Williamson was jailed for 30 months after admitting carrying out the two-year-long fraud at Guthrie Castle near Forfar.

Owner Dan Pena had to cover refunds and has now stopped taking bookings for weddings at the castle.

Mr Pena, 72, said Williamson had "obviously made a big mistake."

He told BBC Scotland: "I have forgiven him. It screwed things up for us quite a bit.

"But I stood up and I paid for the losses, which were apparently attributable to his gambling habit which we knew nothing about."

Image source, Kingdom News Agency
Image caption,
Craig Williamson was jailed for 30 months after admitting the fraud

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

Dundee Sheriff Court was told that in July 2015, Williamson started diverting money from wedding parties into his own account after developing a gambling addiction.

Mr Pena said: "A young girl who was to be married in a few weeks showed up with her mum, she wanted a look around the venue and I believe make a final payment.

"Craig disappeared that day and we didn't think anything of it.

"But in hindsight, he didn't want to have to face that young woman knowing that that was going to be the first wedding that was potentially double booked."

Image caption,
Guthrie Castle no longer takes wedding bookings following the fraud

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A missing person's inquiry was launched and it was established Williamson had withdrawn £6,000 in cash and boarded a Eurostar train to Paris before travelling to Ibiza.

Williamson later returned to Scotland and handed himself in to police.

Mr Pena said: "I'm saddened, but we're just going to move on.

"The old girl, meaning the castle, has been around over 500 years and I'm sure she'll be here for another 500 years.

"It's funny in hindsight, being a guy who's raised three children, it's kind of like you can't watch the kids do everything 24 hours a day.

"It's somebody that I gave control over one thing to do with money and he took advantage of it

"But you have to have faith in people."