Coventry & Warwickshire

Fraud-accused Coventry councillor Philip Townshend never questioned

Philip Townshend Image copyright Coventry City Council
Image caption Mr Townshend became a councillor in 1999, representing Lower Stoke in Coventry, being re-elected by them in four successive elections

An ex-deputy council leader accused of ripping off a vulnerable woman was never interviewed by police over the allegation, the BBC has learned.

Coventry councillor Philip Townshend, who died last year, took out a mortgage on the elderly woman's house without her knowledge, a source said.

A relative branded the police inquiry "disgraceful".

West Midlands Police defended its investigation but declined to say why no interview took place.

His daughter Kirstie Logan-Townshend, 26, rejected the allegation, and said police "made a mistake" by not interviewing him sooner as "he would have co-operated fully".

Mr Townshend was able to get the mortgage as he had been granted power of attorney over the homeowner, who was in her 70s, the BBC understands.

'Whiter than white'

An allegation of irregularities in her finances was made in May 2015, said police, and the case given to an investigating officer in July.

When Mr Townshend, a solicitor, died last October, aged 57, he had not been interviewed, a BBC Freedom of Information (FoI) request revealed.

West Midlands Police said four officers had worked on the investigation, but would not explain why Mr Townshend had not been questioned.

A relative of the woman said: "He should have been brought in at the first opportunity.

"He was being paid by the public purse and should have been whiter than white, holier than thou."

A source told the BBC Mr Townshend applied for equity release on the property, which was priced at £325,000 according to Land Registry documents.

Mortgage papers and bank statements were held by police, according to an FoI request released after a BBC appeal.

The documents show Mr Townshend benefitted to the tune of tens of thousands of pounds, a source said.

Image copyright Google
Image caption A court ordered Townshends LLP to be wound up in January 2013, according to Companies House documents

Before his death, Mr Townshend allegedly told a mortgage company which attempted to take possession of the home it would be vacant, even though the woman still lived there.

It ceased repossession proceedings when it was made aware of the alleged fraud, a source said.

The councillor's former company, Townshends LLP solicitors, was wound up by court order and still had unpaid debts of more than £688,000.

By March this year, liquidators had found "no areas for recovery", according to official documents. The firm's biggest creditor was HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

Police also had a warrant application to search Coventry City council house, but it is not known if the authority was searched.

'Background issues'

However, police said any suggestion of a "cover up" was "wholly inappropriate and does not reflect the complex and protracted nature of the investigation".

The force, which declined to provide further details of its investigations, said its inquiries covered "all relevant parties".

Ms Logan-Townshend said: "If police had not investigated, they would have faced scrutiny because he was a public figure. They raided my home as well.

"I knew all his sides and this allegation would have been completely out of character."

The Solicitor's Regulation Authority (SRA) began to investigate Mr Townshend in May 2015 but stopped when he died. A spokesperson said "no further work or action could be taken" now.

At an inquest in April this year, a coroner ruled Mr Townshend died of natural causes.

Mr Townshend became a councillor in 1999, served as a school governor and held the role of Chair of University Hospitals Coventry & Warwickshire NHS Trust for five years.

He is set to become the first recipient of a posthumous degree from the University of Warwick next month.

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