'LEWIS v. GREY: THE BACKGROUND'

IN THE SWANSEA [later CARDIFF] COUNTY COURT
CLAIM NO: 6SA04730

B E T W E E N:

MR SAMUEL LEWIS
(BY DR JULIAN LEWIS HIS LITIGATION FRIEND)

Claimant

-and-

 

MR PAUL GREY

Defendant

WITNESS STATEMENT OF DR JULIAN MURRAY LEWIS

 

I, DR JULIAN MURRAY LEWIS, ... state:

Introduction
 

  1. I am the litigation friend of the Claimant, Mr Samuel Lewis, who is my father.

  2. There is now produced and shown to me marked “JL/1” a paginated bundle of true copy documents to which I shall refer.

  3. My father was born on 9 April 1913 and is now 94 years of age. Since Easter 2003, he has resided in a care home. Although he is in reasonable physical condition for his age, he suffers from what was described at the time of his admission as a mild-moderate degree of dementia. I have been his Court of Protection receiver since July 2003.

  4. Until he went into care, my father lived at 6 Glanmor Road, Uplands, Swansea. This was his home from about 1958. He had lived alone there since my mother’s death in 1987.

  5. The house was built in the 1890s and is a four-bedroom semi-detached property. In his old age, my father was used to managing his own affairs and was able to look after himself, initially with the help of his sister and later with that of a part-time carer, having declined my offer to have him live with me in London after my mother’s death. His only other child, my sister, lives overseas. In the late 1990s, my father began to have problems with his short-term memory. He was lucid and capable of holding normal conversations but had trouble remembering what he had said or done in the very recent past. He would repeat the same points or ask the same questions several times in the same conversation.

  6. I have not lived in Swansea for many years but I kept in touch with my father regularly by telephone. I also used to visit him periodically and had him to stay with me in my constituency home after I entered Parliament in 1997.

  7. In November 2000, my father was charged £875 by a local Swansea builder, Mr Paul Grey, for work to the exterior and roof of the house. At that time, Mr Grey was trading as “Enterprise Roofing and Building”. Mr Grey’s receipted invoices are at pp1-2.

  8. I have no personal knowledge of how Mr Grey contacted my father in the first instance.

  9. In November 2001, Mr Grey charged my father £130 for repairs to the roof of the house. By this time, Mr Grey was trading as “St James’s Building Services”. Mr Grey’s receipted invoice is p3.

  10. I did not inspect the work which Mr Grey claimed to have carried out in 2000 and 2001 so I am unable to say exactly what Mr Grey did or did not do. I only have his invoices, which I subsequently found amongst my father’s papers.

  11. I first became aware of Mr Grey in late November 2002, after he had been back to the house for the third year running, this time trading as “Paul Grey Building Services”.

  12. Some months earlier, on a visit to see my father, I had realised that the house was suffering from dry rot. I managed to persuade my father to allow me to arrange for a local contractor, Mr Eddie Hoolachan, a member of the Federation of Master Builders who was trading as “H I Construction (damp proofing)” to investigate the dry rot and to provide a quotation for remedial works. I received a quotation from Mr Hoolachan dated 4 November 2002 (p4). I arranged for Mr Hoolachan to carry out the work for two weeks starting on Monday, 25 November 2002 (pp5-6).

  13. I rang my father on 20 November, to remind him that Mr Hoolachan was coming. My father said words to the effect of, “Oh, but Julian the builders are here already”. He told me that he was not happy because the job was turning out to be much bigger than he had expected and the builders were making a terrible mess. I was surprised to hear that there were any builders at the property.

  14. I asked my father whether he had paid the builders any money. He had a look at his cheque book in which he always meticulously recorded his cheque payments. He told me that he had given a Mr Grey a cheque for £800 on 14 November 2002 and another cheque for £1,000 on 18 November 2002.

  15. I asked my father to let me speak to Mr Grey. He was not present, but I spoke to his labourer, who identified himself as Alan. He confirmed that he was working for Mr Paul Grey and agreed to ask him to call me back on my mobile phone. When I spoke to Mr Grey he told me that he was carrying out some repairs to the roof and re-rendering walls at the back of the house. I asked him if the £1,800 which my father had already paid covered the entire cost and he confirmed this. He assured me that the work would be completed soon.

  16. I have never claimed nor wished to imply that Mr Grey sought a further sum of £1,800 from me, as suggested to in paragraph 5(f) of the Defence. Neither do I recall any mention of a sum of £400 for plastering work in the course of this discussion with Mr Grey, as referred to in paragraph 5(d) of the Defence, nor any question arising about other contractors undertaking plastering work at the property. I did have a later conversation with Mr Grey about some further work which cost me £400 but I did not discuss this figure with Mr Grey when I was first discussing the £1,800 paid by my father. Also, when I spoke to Mr Grey about paying a further £400, that was in respect of repairs to the roof guttering and down-pipes, not plastering. This later conversation is mentioned below.

  17. I was concerned about my father’s dealings with Mr Grey, although somewhat reassured by my conversation with him. On 21 November 2002, I spoke to my father’s branch of Lloyds Bank, which happened to be two doors from his house. I cannot now recall whether I made this call shortly before or shortly after my conversation with Mr Grey, but I asked them to alert me to any suspicious withdrawals from my father’s bank account. I later asked my father’s bank branch to supply copies of the notes made on the account and these were supplied by letter dated 18 May 2004 (pp7-9).

  18. Also on 21 November 2002, I wrote to my father asking him, amongst other things, not to pay any money in future without telling me first and not to write any more cheques for any of the builders. A copy of the letter is at pp 10-11. I believe that my father received and read the letter because I subsequently found the letter and the opened envelope amongst my father’s possessions.

  19. Just as Mr Hoolachan’s work was ending in the first week of December, Mr Grey telephoned me and said that, although his work on the roof and walls was complete, he had discovered that some additional work needed to be carried out on the guttering and down-pipes at the rear of the house. He said it would cost an extra £400. I agreed to this. On 8 December 2002, Mr Grey supplied an invoice for £400 for removing and replacing the fascia boards, guttering and renewing pipe work and down-pipes (p12). In a note written by my assistant, Mrs Brooks, dated 16 December 2002 (p13), I also asked him to provide a full breakdown of the work he had already done for my father. He did this in a handwritten note dated 19-2-02, which I think was a mistake for 19 December 2002 (p14). I paid Mr Grey the £400 by cheque dated 18 December 2002 (p15).

  20. Mr Hoolachan carried out the dry rot treatment between 25 November 2002 and 6 December 2002, when he left the house. In accordance with his quotation, I paid him the sum of £5,146.50 on 19 December 2002 by cheque dated 18 December 2002 (pp16-18).

  21. On 21 January 2003, I prepared a letter to my father to obtain his written confirmation that the money I had paid to Mr Hoolachan and Mr Grey was a loan which my father would repay in due course. My father acknowledged this with his signature when I travelled to Swansea to see him on 26 January 2003 (p19).

  22. When I went on that visit to my father on 26 January 2003. I was shocked to find that Mr Grey’s work was nowhere near complete and the scaffolding was still in place. Only a short piece of guttering, open at both ends, had been fitted, resulting in rainwater pouring from the roof onto the newly-rendered wall for up to a month. The following morning, I telephoned Mr Grey to complain. He professed surprise that the work was unfinished, apologised and promised to give it his immediate personal attention. He also claimed that he had used a roofer to do the work, who had told him that the work had been finished.

  23. In the early afternoon of that same day, 27 January 2003, I received a call from a cashier at the Lloyds Bank branch, Ms Hazel Mathews, who informed me that she had become concerned that my father was repeatedly withdrawing large sums of cash. She had checked his notes, had seen my warning that he was at risk of being fleeced by builders and had acted on my request to be advised of any large withdrawals. I rang my father that evening and spoke to him about the withdrawals. I made a note of what he told me when I spoke to him (p20).

  24. My father referred to the entries in his cheque book recording payments he had made out of the account. He told me that the cheque book showed that he had made out cheques to Mr Grey for £800 on 14 November 2002 and £1,000 on 18 November 2002. He had then used cheques to make cash withdrawals to pay Mr Grey of £500 on 4 December 2002, £400 on 6 December 2002, £1,200 on 16 December 2002, £1,000 on 20 December 2002, £800 on 7 January 2003, £1,000 on 9 January 2003, £1,200 on 24 January 2003 and £1,400 on 27 January 2003. The total amount of cash was £7,500. Also listed was another cheque to the value of £1,400 which was never presented for cashing. It was dated 7 December 2002 which was a Saturday, when I believe the bank was closed.

  25. I was later able to obtain my father’s cheque book to which he had referred. I saw that, after the two cheques to Mr Grey, the first of the cash withdrawals for £500 had originally been made out to “P Grey” and been crossed out and altered to “Self”, i.e. cash. A copy of the cheque book entries between 4 December 2002 and 27 January 2003 is at pp21-22. Copies of my father’s bank account statements for this period are at pp23-29.

  26. I was alarmed by what my father had told me. I decided to ring my father again and ask him to go over the story and to tape-record what he said so that I had a record of it. I called my father on 29 January 2003, but he told me that Mr Grey was at the house. I tape-recorded the telephone conversation. I spoke both to my father and to Mr Grey. I did not talk to my father about the payments so as to avoid the possibility of a confrontation with Mr Grey.

  27. Mr Grey said how surprised he was that so much more of the work, paid for by me, remained to be finished. He claimed to have done most of this work himself, but then to have gone off on another job, leaving his roofer to finish at my father’s house. Mr Grey said that his roofer had assured him that the work was done. I asked for the man’s name. Mr Grey sounded flustered and hesitant before finally giving the name of the supposed roofer as “Joe Edwards”. He also confirmed that, on the earlier work, paid for by my father, he had used the labourer, Alan Hughes, whom I had spoken to originally. Mr Grey admitted that no work had been done since Christmas.

  28. Mr Grey described the work he had left to do. The extra work on the guttering and down-pipes for which I had paid him £400 in mid-December was still unfinished. He claimed it would take him only another half-day. I expressed my concern that he had left the property in an unfinished state for as long as he had.

  29. On the following day, 30 January 2003, I succeeded in talking to my father when he was alone in the house. I again asked him about the withdrawals from his bank account and I tape-recorded his answers, which were consistent with what he had told me on 27 January 2003. He reiterated that all of the money had been given by him to Mr Grey.

  30. Unfortunately, at the end of the conversation, my father collapsed and I had to call the emergency services, who took him to hospital. After an overnight stay there, he came home to 24-hour care for one week as a temporary measure before being admitted temporarily on 7 February to the protection of a unit at Cefn Coed Hospital until a place could be obtained for him in a Jewish home for the elderly near my home in London.

  31. The house was no longer occupied when I next visited it on 14 February 2003, although it had been, by my father and his 24-hour carers, until about one week earlier. Despite his promises to finish the work in half a day, Mr Grey’s guttering and pipe-work was still incomplete and his scaffolding was still in place. As my father was now safely and permanently out of the house, I could now engage Mr Hoolachan to repair and complete the building works left by Mr Grey at a cost of £493.50. It took him a weekend to finish the work, shift a considerable load of rubble left from Mr Grey’s original job, and dismantle Mr Grey’s scaffolding for collection. Mr Hoolachan’s invoice is at p30. A copy of the estimate and receipted invoice, together with a breakdown is at pp31-32.

  32. On 23 February 2003 I spoke to Mr Grey by telephone and again taped the conversation. Now that my father was in a place of safety, I could confront him for the first time about the fraudulent cash payments. He denied that he had had any of my father’s money other than the two cheques totalling £1,800. He said that there had only been one other person on site recently, the alleged roofer, Mr Joe Edwards of Manselton, whom he had previously claimed to have misled him about the work having been finished. He insisted that Joe Edwards had not been responsible for the fraud, but could give no explanation as to how he could know this. When I demanded that Mr Grey give me Mr Edwards’s contact details, he flatly refused, swore and slammed down the phone.

  33. I wrote to Mr Grey by recorded delivery on 24 February 2003 formally requesting that he supply the names and addresses of the workmen whom he had brought to the house since November 2002 (p33-34). Mr Grey declined to reply.

  34. I sent a further recorded delivery letter to Mr Grey on 13 March 2003 (pp35-36) requiring reimbursement of the cost of Mr Hoolachan completing Mr Grey’s unfinished work. There was no reply.

  35. I subsequently referred the matter to an investigative television programme known as The Ferret broadcast by HTV Wales. Its presenter, Mr Chris Segar, investigated Mr Grey during 2003 and broadcast an edition of the programme about him on 18 December 2003. There is now produced and shown to me a DVD marked “JL/2”. This edition of The Ferret is at Track 1.

  36. The programme’s investigation discovered that there was no roofer in the area by the name of Joe Edwards, only a milkman, a well-known character in the community, who had died recently.

  37. It was as a result of this programme that Mr Grey made a number of late-night abusive, grossly anti-semitic and/or nuisance calls to me from late 2003 until April 2004. I made a note of all of these calls on 4 May 2004 (pp37-40), and I was able to tape record one of the last of these calls on 3 April 2004. During this long conversation, although continuing to deny defrauding my father, Mr Grey admitted to being an habitual crook and boasted of regularly swindling large sums of money out of elderly victims by pretending to carry out building work but not doing it. These victims included my Aunt, Mrs Sadie Pelta, now deceased. Mr Grey asserted that he had obtained thousands of pounds from her just for turning up at her door. He repeatedly challenged me to do something about it and exulted in his cleverness in being able to outwit people. He also admitted that the charge featured in The Ferret programme on 18 December 2003 that he took hundreds of pounds from World War II Normandy veteran Pat Meehan for uncompleted work was true and proceeded to denigrate Mr Meehan’s character. He further claimed to know who it was who had taken the money from my father, saying that two people did so, a ginger-haired Welshman and a mixed-race Pakistani, and that he even knew the van they used. He declined to identify them.

  38. In the light of his admission as to his conduct towards other elderly people including my father’s late sister, the statement in paragraph 5(b) of the Defence about Mr Grey’s concern for my father’s vulnerability can only be seen to be bogus and an attempt to mislead. Even today, at the age of 94, my father still tells people about his daughter who lives in Israel and his son who is in Parliament and would have told Mr Grey this if asked in November 2002. In his 3 April 2004 conversation, Mr Grey referred to the fact that he knew my sister lived in Israel. If he was worried about my father, he could easily have contacted me via the House of Commons but he did not. There have never been more than three MPs with the surname of Lewis during the past ten years. Any conversation which took place with a neighbour is more easily explicable in the light of Mr Grey’s statement, near the end of his call to me on 3 April 2004, that he weighs people up, like my late aunt, before taking their cash. If he had genuinely been so concerned about my father’s mental capacity at this time it also raises the question as to why he thought it proper or appropriate to make any expensive building arrangements with him at all.

  39. Before the tape-recording of this conversation was submitted to the police, they had already decided not to proceed against Mr Grey for defrauding my father. He was interviewed under caution but not prosecuted because the prosecution could not rely on my father as a witness due to his age and fragile state of health. I received news of this in a letter from Detective Inspector Paul Henwood of Swansea CID dated 23 April 2004, a copy of which both DI Henwood and I have been unable to trace, though I have a copy of my response to it dated 5 May 2004 (p41). By then, I had sent the police the dossier of late-night telephone calls from Mr Grey and the tape of the abusive and grossly offensive telephone conversation of 3 April 2004 (p42).

  40. Mr Grey was prosecuted for an offence under s43(1a) of the Telecommunications Act 1984. On 21 October 2005, Mr Grey was convicted of the offence, having changed his plea to guilty shortly before the trial, and ordered to do 80 hours community service and pay prosecution costs of £50. A memorandum of the conviction is at p43. The conviction was based on the taped telephone conversation of 3 April 2004. In a subsequent further interview on The Ferret programme, on 27 October 2005, he deliberately sought to misrepresent his own statements and admissions on the tape as referring to his abilities as a builder rather than as a swindler of elderly people. The edition of the programme containing this interview with Mr Grey is at Track 3 of the DVD marked “JL/2”.

  41. I believe that Paul Grey took my father’s money in accordance with his regular practice of swindling elderly people out of their money without doing any work for them or without completing that which he began.

  42. My solicitors sent a letter before action to Mr Grey on 9 October 2006 (pp44-45). He failed to reply and the claim was issued 13 November 2006.

  43. Mr Grey served a Defence denying liability for the claim. In his Defence, Mr Grey seems to hint that Mr Hoolachan or his workmen may have been in a position to take my father’s money. I refute any such suggestion. There is no shred of evidence that Mr Hoolachan or any other builder outside the Paul Grey operation set foot on the premises from 6 December 2002 until after the fraud was over.

  44. Mr Hoolachan’s work to eradicate the dry rot was finished on 6 December 2002, just two weeks after he started it on 25 November. He came back to the house at my request on 14 February 2003 to assess Mr Grey’s still-unfinished work. The money was taken from my father in instalments on dates beginning on 4 December 2002 and ending on 27 January 2003. The only contractor who is known to have been at the house throughout that period was Mr Grey, possibly with the assistance of the alleged roofer, supposedly Joe Edwards, whose contact details Mr Grey has consistently refused to reveal.

  45. I believe that Mr Grey began taking money from my father when he knew that the main builders were about to leave and then thought of a strategy to prolong his stay. I was informed by Chris Segar that he discovered during his investigation that Mr Hoolachan’s foreman, Barry Bowler, knocked on my father’s back door when he was finishing on 6 December 2002 only to have it answered by Mr Grey telling him that my father was busy and that he should come back another time. I note that one of my father’s earliest cash withdrawals was on this date.

  46. In my view, Mr Grey deliberately engineered for himself a small, £400 job from me as an excuse to retain access to the premises, just as Mr Hoolachan was finishing his much larger job on schedule. Mr Grey then spun out what should have been no more than two days’ work, so that it lasted over two months and supplied him with a pretext to continue to call on my father. After I exposed Mr Grey’s activities in the House of Commons and on television, though never admitting defrauding my father, he could not resist boasting to me in a call to my mobile phone, that he had behaved precisely in this way to numerous other people and that he was clever enough to be able to get away with it.

  47. He also told the South Wales Evening Post newspaper, in a report published on 1 March 2005 (p47), that the theft must have been carried out by someone else impersonating him. He was quoted as saying: “Somebody called to the house claiming to be or working for me but it was nothing to do with me”, adding that “That money went missing in January 2003 and I had stopped working there on December 20, 2002.”

  48. Those assertions are patent nonsense given the facts already set out, and I note that 20 December was the date on which the fourth withdrawal was made from the bank, before an interval until 7 January when the first of the remaining four cash withdrawals was made.

  49. I paid Mr Hoolachan myself. I accept that my father’s serious short-term memory incapacity made him vulnerable to being persuaded to withdraw large sums from the bank at such frequent intervals. However, given that Mr Grey subsequently incriminated himself on tape as a self-confessed conman of the elderly, my father would have to have been exceptionally unlucky to have had two such conmen on his premises in the same month. Nor is it clear why Mr Grey, with his admitted record of defrauding old people in exactly this way, both before and after the month in question, should have made an exception for my father when he was obviously at his mercy.

  50. There is now produced and shown to me marked “JL/3” a set of transcripts of the telephone conversations on 29 January 2003 (marked “A”), 30 January 2003 (marked “B”), 23 February 2003 (marked “C”) and 3 April 2004 (marked “D”).

I believe that the facts stated in this witness statement are true.

Dr JULIAN MURRAY LEWIS

Dated this 9th day of August 2007

[For the outcome of this case, click here.]