'London riots police' fraudster jailed for five years

Ellis Ward
Image caption Ellis Ward tweeted as 'Inspector Winter' tackling riots in London

A conman who tweeted as a Metropolitan Police officer tackling London riots and posed as an army major injured in Iraq has been jailed for five years.

Ellis Ward, 29, of Bishops's Cleeve, near Cheltenham, had also conned three women out of a total of £42,000.

His 'riots' tweets were followed by 3,000 people including newspapers, with one offering him £600 for a column.

The "accomplished fraudster" admitted to 18 charges of fraud between 2008 and 2012, Winchester Crown Court heard.

Ward tweeted and wrote a blog as "Inspector Winter" purporting to be on the frontline during the August 2011 riots in Tottenham and Croydon, which saw some of the worst of the rioting and looting in the capital.

Sixteen charges related to conning three women, the 17th charge related to the Daily Telegraph for writing his column and the final charge was using false police and military identity cards and uniforms.

'Life of fiction'

The court heard Ward began his charade in 2008 by running up credit card debts of £30,000 in the name of a woman he had a relationship with.

He met his other two women victims online, one of whom was a police community support officer who later became a constable, and defrauded them of £12,000.

He had an array of uniforms, identity cards, and also carried false warrant cards, real handcuffs, and stop and search forms.

Ward had also posed as a Met counter-terrorism police officer, a major in the Royal Military Police calling himself Ethan Winchcombe or Sir Ethan Winchcombe, and an army personnel injured in an explosion in Iraq who worked in the Serious Organised Crime Agency.

He also marched at a Remembrance Day service at Ware in November 2011, the court heard.

Prosecutor Michael Williams said: "The defendant is a professional and accomplished fraudster.

"His entire life was a fiction, of which he was the author and, save for his imagination, there was no limit on the lies he was prepared to tell in order to get his hands on money."

When the first victim complained in May 2009 to Wiltshire Police, officers found he was also wanted by Gloucestershire Police in a separate fraud inquiry.

But before police could question Ward, who had previously been in prison, he went on the run for two-and-a-half years until his arrest in February 2012.

'Genuinely loved many'

Judge Peter Ralls QC, told Ward: "You engaged yourself in a deception of quite staggering complexity.

"You lived a complete lie. You were in effect creating a fantasy world for yourself."

Nikki Haywood, from the Crown Prosecution Service Wessex, said Ward prepared his stories "carefully" and was driven by "pure greed".

"One of his biggest lies was claiming that he was a Metropolitan Police inspector involved in the London disorders last August, and he set up a Twitter page which attracted 3,000 followers in this persona."

Defending Ward, Daniel Higgins, said: "He genuinely liked and loved many of the people involved.

"He has lived a lie and he does accept that he has put a great number of people through heartache."

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