Love rat leaves trail of broken hearts and empty banks accounts

Jonathan Price

Jonathan Price

First published in News

A CONMAN is behind bars for a series of devastating deceptions that have left victims across the country. NEIL HUNTER looks at how his trail led to County Durham.

PRETENDING to be looking for love on an internet dating site, Jonathan Price stipulated he needed a woman who was "honest and trustworthy".

The irony won't be lost on any of his victims that he has never shown either of those two qualities in a life littered with fraud and prison terms.

"He's as dishonest as the day is long," a judge said after hearing of his latest plot to con a string of girlfriends and their families out of their savings.

The plot is like something from the cinema screen - make-believe millions, a brain tumour, speedboats and a career in the forces.

Jonathan Price is, in fact, a career crook, a conman who has told so many lies his own barrister says he now doesn't know what is truth and what is fantasy.

What is fact is that the 41-year-old's latest elaborate fraud has left at least three women and their families shattered - emotionally and financially.

Judge Michael Taylor told the Darlington love-rat that he will be going to prison when he is sentenced for his heartbreaking crimes next month.

The experience won't be a new one.

In December 1994, he was locked up for two-and-a-half years at Lincoln Crown Court for ten offences of obtaining property by deception.

At the same court five years later, Price received a sentence of almost six years for a number of identical crimes and cheating creditors.

In 2003, he was at Doncaster Crown Court for four thefts and got three-and-a-half years.

Ipswich Crown Court was the next venue in March 2009 when he was jailed for four years for eight offences of fraud and eight of theft.

"He is a conman, first and foremost," said Judge Taylor after he pleaded guilty to 15 counts of fraud and one of theft at Teesside Crown Court.

He will return to the building from the prison cell in which he is being held on remand once medical and psychiatric reports have been compiled.

The last time he was behind bars, it is thought he was plotting these crimes - having already joined the Sugardaddies website to trawl for victims.

He met the first of his three latest loves through the singles website before he was locked up in 2009 - a businesswoman from Dorset in her 30s.

She was spun what came to be a familiar yarn that he was obscenely wealthy with funds in an offshore account in the Cayman Islands, but did not have long to live.

He used money from her and her parents for trips to London for imaginary medical treatment - body scans, injections and appointments.

But while in the capital, he was seeing another woman, having lunch in Harrods and telling her the same tall tales about his vast wealth.

He finally fled from the home of the first victim when he either realised her parents were beginning to suspect him or that their money was running out.

The second woman - a retail manager - introduced Price to her family and they, too, were to be taken in by his lies and fleeced of their savings.

In November 2010, he said he had to go to Geneva for a week, but then sent a series of texts - some purporting to be from a friend - with terrible news.

They claimed he had been run over, then later collapsed, and later still that he was firstly in hospital in Cambridge and then in a specialist head injury unit in Sheffield.

Price ran up huge debts on the woman's credit cards - hiring a Land Rover Discovery and driving it to Monaco, and asking his lover to fly out to see him.

He disappeared claiming to have a brain tumour and said he was going to stay with an ex-army colleague.

In the meantime, the conman had racked up so much debt on her cards that she declared herself bankrupt and was living like a pauper.

But, rather than staying with a caring old comrade, Price was with another woman and was regularly making contact with yet more on the website.

The third victim - who was being dated at the same time as the other two - was told he lived in up-market Knightsbridge.

Price proposed to her, went shopping on Bond Street for an engagement ring and booked an exclusive 96,000 wedding at Rockliffe Hall in Hurworth.

In the end, their wedding had to be cancelled - she believed because of his illness - and they were married at Harrogate Register Office with just four guests.

After 'borrowing' money from his wife and her parents on the pretence that he would repay them once his funds were released, Price began to plot his latest exit strategy.

Last April, he complained that something was wrong in the sight of one of his eyes, said he had been for tests and had an inoperable brain tumour.

A month later, he was arrested when his wife's parents, from the outskirts of Darlington, realised what he had been up to and contacted police.

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