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25 July 2006
By Lachlan Mackinnon

BOGUS war hero "Captain Sir" Alan McIlwraith last night spoke for the first time about his bizarre Walter Mitty double life.

He claimed bullying and an attack by young thugs drove him to pretend he was a top Army officer.

We exposed him in April after he posed as a war hero at charity events and duped celebrities and workmates into believing he had won medals for bravery.

In fact, he worked in a call centre worker and never served in the Army. McIlwraith, has since been dumped by furious girlfriend Shona McLaughlan - who he also duped during the charade.

At its height, his web of deceit had stretched so far he conned the National Children's Homes charity into inviting him to the Woman of Influence Awards at the Barony Halls in Glasgow earlier this year.

A picture in celebrity magazine No1 showed him in the dress uniform of the Parachute Regiment wearing his fake KBE regalia and was captioned "Lady Shona and Sir Alan McIlwraith".

He claimed to have served in Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland and Kosovo.

McIlwraith, from Priesthill, Glasgow, now says he was driven to lie after being hit on the head with a scaffolding pole by a gang of youths in the street.

He said: "It's like a lightbulb going off in your head.

"It seemed like a really good idea.

"If I tell people I am an officer in the Army, they will leave me alone."

The 28-year-old, whose double life lasted more than two years, put his plan into action by reading up on the Army and buying war medals and a dress uniform from eBay.

He also got friends to set up a page on the internet encyclopaedia Wikipedia praising his exploits. It read: "He is best known for risking his own life when his company was attacked by a battalion. To protect his men he took charge of a general purpose machine gun and held off the enemy long enough for his men to retreat."

Before long, he began to believe in his new identity and moved to a call centre where he told fellow workers and even his manager about his made-up life - including days spent at top military school Sandhurst.

He said: "The lie had just gone too deep. It's like a weed that invades your life.

"Once it's taken root, there's nothing you can do ab out it.

"It's like the game Buckaroo. Everybody keeps adding something on and you have got to try to keep you with everything.

"My mind started going like 'this is who you are' and this is when I started thinking that it was true.

"I believed I had been to all these places.

"The doctors say it stemmed from when I got smacked on the head. My mind went loopy."

Before long, he claimed he served with Nato as a military adviser to the Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, General Wesley Clark.

And he told how he became "a hit within the military world" by telling tales of risking his life to save a young woman from an angry mob.

He also told colleagues how the Army's chief of staff, General Sir Mike Jackson, hailed him as "a splendid soldier, a credit to the country".

McIlwraith also claimed to be a knight and holder of military honours the DSO and MC.

Previously unlucky in love, he met Shona McLaughlan while out drinking with friends.

Dazzled by lies about his past, she quickly fell for him.

His new life seemed complete when they got engaged on a Nile cruise last summer. During the trip, he dressed up as a sheikh on a fancy dress Egyptian night.

But he never told her about his fantasy life. He failed to mention how in 2001, he was fined £500 at Glasgow Sheriff Court after stealing from his bosses at B&Q in Darnley, on the south side of the city.

After his lies became public, he tried to to take his own life.

He was taken to hospital by Shona who later returned his engagement ring in the post.

He said she loved him as Sir Alan - not as the fraud he really was.

He said: "I am not condoning what I did but it is probably the easiest thing in the world to do, take on a new personality.

"At this point I was going down a spiral.

"It's not like I robbed or killed anybody.

"I made people look stupid, probably myself more than anybody else and I upset my family and friends."

McIlwraith, who has now grown a goatee beard and wears a cap when he goes out in case anyone recognises him, admitted he was a charlatan and revealed he is surprised anyone fell for his "alter ego".

He is currently seeing a psychiatrist as part of a bid to rebuild his life.

He said: "Last year was probably the best year of my life.

"I've lost everything. I was made out to be an evil person - I don't think I am evil.

"I am stupid and I suppose I could say I was a bit callous with other people's feelings but I never set out to hurt anybody.

"Now I am probably the only man in the country without a secret to tell, the only man in the country that doesn't have a future.

"I can't get a job because I am untrustworthy, or a girlfriend because what woman is ever going to trust me? It depresses me."

In April, we revealed McIlwraith, who claimed to be a pal of singer Robbie Williams, had lost his £16,000-a-year call centre job.

At the time, he was slammed by an Army spokesman who said: "I can confirm he is a fraud. He has never been an officer, soldier or Army cadet. May I suggest you try the space cadet organisation."

'Doctors said it stemmed from when I got a smack on the head. My mind just went loopy'

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