King's School fraudster sent to jail

PUBLISHED: 13:15 26 January 2006 | UPDATED: 11:28 04 May 2010

SERIAL conman Robert Hyams left a string of high profile victims in his wake, from top private schools to world-renowned auction houses. But the tissue of lies upon which his Walter Mitty lifestyle was based unravelled when the 51-year-old fantasist pus

SERIAL conman Robert Hyams left a string of high profile victims in his wake, from top private schools to world-renowned auction houses.

But the tissue of lies upon which his "Walter Mitty" lifestyle was based unravelled when the 51-year-old fantasist pushed his dishonesty one step too far - and attempted to steal famous masterpieces worth more than £1million.

It has since emerged that the fraudster funded a millionaire playboy lifestyle by pulling off a range of audacious scams, which included conning the Kings School at Ely out of thousands in tuition fees, cheating a rental firm for the use of a Mercedes and trying to fleece the paintings from Christies.

And the latest frauds, for which Hyams was handed a five-year sentence yesterday, are not the first high-profile scams he has carried out which have subsequently hit the headlines.

It was also not the first time the father-of-two has defrauded a top private school. For in 1998, details emerged of how Hyams left debts of £5,000 after enrolling his daughter at Brandeston Hall School while posing as a wealthy doctor.

And the fraudster, who also pretended to be a bogus professor, left house owners and estate agents fuming after putting in offers for large country homes before pulling out at the last moment.

These daring scams were revealed after Hyams was sentenced to two years in prison for attempting to bring Heathrow - Britain's busiest airport - to its knees by making a series of hoax bomb calls in fake foreign accents.

At the time of the incidents, his victims spoke of how no one had doubted the well-spoken, intelligent man, who drove a top-of-the-range Audi and appeared respectable in every way.

It was image Hyams had carried with him throughout his criminal career. For in 1992, six years before the Heathrow hoax, he was jailed for conning more than £236,000 from finance companies, for the purchase of non-existent farm machinery while he lived near Sudbury.

At the same time, he gave hope to Aids sufferers by making bogus claims regarding the effectiveness of a drug designed to combat the illness - while the guise of a scientist was one he adopted again during his most recent con at Christies.

For on this occasion, he posed as a biochemist from the University of California on the brink of a cancer breakthrough, forging bank references to bid for works by Marc Chagal and Georges Braque.

But his string of deceits was brought to an end after auctioneers became suspicious and made in-depth checks into his finances.

Hyams then led police on a "sorry dance" before officers eventually traced him to a rented $3m mansion in a smart Californian suburb, where two brand new Mercedes jeeps were parked in the driveway.

It was a far cry from the modest lifestyle he enjoyed at his rented bungalow in Piglet's Place, Culford, near Bury St Edmunds.

The Kings School declined to comment on the fraud.

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