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Tomintoul's 'Lord of Fraud' story is told again on BBC Scotland

By Tom Ramage

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It was a sensation at the time, when an audacious fraud of a former Met Police accountant who for years had styled himself as the Laird of Tomintoul was exposed.

But in time Tony Williams' spectacular con left the headlines and, as he languished in jail for a few years, it faded away altogether from the public eye.

The 'Laird of Tomintoul' Anthony Williams in the 1990s. Picture from YouTube promo.
The 'Laird of Tomintoul' Anthony Williams in the 1990s. Picture from YouTube promo.

But on Tuesday the story resurfaces on BBC Scotland, as part of criminologist David Wilson's "Scams and Scandals". In episode five of 10, Wilson investigates ‘white collar’ crime, exploring how the fraudster made himself a Scottish ‘laird’ after stealing millions from the cops.

Up here Williams was known as a Lord, having bought a title for himself at £80k.

In London, he had been an anonymous accountant for the Met.

Generous with 'his' money, Williams was soon being feted by some of the villagers, after renovating a hotel, backing local businesses and investing in properties.

For some eight years he got away with his outrageous scam, until he was caught in 1994 and sent to jail for seven-and-a-half years.

Professor Wilson features it as 'one of the most extraordinary fraud cases in UK history'.

The celebrated criminologist has previewed his feature remembering that back in 1994 there was talk of a major movie, with Gabriel Byrne even in the frame to play the conman.

But the film never happened.

“It’s obvious the Met were totally embarrassed that one of their own accountants was stealing from them, hence the reason they were quick to sentence Williams and sweep it under the carpet.

“What made it even more embarrassing was that it wasn’t the Met who discovered the fraud, it was a teller in the Clydesdale Bank in Tomintoul who got suspicious over his cheques and raised the alarm.”

Wilson's programme recalls that Williams was deputy director of finance at Scotland Yard and, during 12 years of lies, deception and theft, he stole £5m that should have been spent on police undercover operations.

It all began with a £200 theft from the police welfare fund in 1981.

David Wilson in Tomintoul for Tuesday's episode. Picture from YouTube preview.
David Wilson in Tomintoul for Tuesday's episode. Picture from YouTube preview.

Previewing his feature on Williams, Professor Wilson said: “I spoke to the people of Tomintoul for the documentary and they are still conflicted about their feelings towards ‘Lord’ Williams. They very much view him through rose-tinted glasses and at one point he had an ale named after him called ‘The Laird of Tomintoul’.

“He brought investment into the town at a time when it was much-needed and I understand that but he wasn’t some kind of modern-day Robin Hood who was stealing from the rich and giving to the poor.

“He was pilfering taxpayers’ money which was supposed to help stop the IRA’s bombing campaigns on the mainland. It was wrong on so many levels and was appalling and immoral behaviour.”

David Wilson's Crime Files: Scams & Scandals, Tuesdays, 10 pm, BBC Scotland. All episodes are available now on iPlayer

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