Millionaire writer 'murdered by identity thief'
Recluse killed by bankrupt owing £1m, Old Bailey told Bank accounts 'accessed through stolen post'
Saturday February 2, 2008
A reclusive millionaire writer was beaten to death at his Hampstead home in north London by an identity thief who plundered his bank accounts to steal more than £20,000, the Old Bailey heard yesterday. Allan Chappelow, an 84-year old biographer of George Bernard Shaw, was found in June 2006 buried under a pile of papers in his dilapidated £2.5m home, the court heard.
The killer, according to Mark Ellison, prosecuting, was Wang Yam, 46, a British citizen born in China who had declared himself a bankrupt owing £1.1m in September 2004. For about a month before Chappelow's body was found someone had been stealing his post and using information from it to access his bank and credit card accounts. Yam denies murder, burglary and four dishonesty offences.
The first evidence of a break-in at Chappelow's home emerged as he returned from a trip to America on May 1 2006 to find the front door of his house on Downshire Hill forced open and post stolen. He was last known to be alive on May 8, when he telephoned the Revenue and Customs to check if a tax rebate had gone missing in the theft. A postman who kept delivering to the house, which had a heavily overgrown garden, one day found his path to the house blocked by a tree or shrub. He was later approached by a "Chinese man" who asked about the delivery, said Ellison. "Hearing about the tree, he responded by saying he was related to the occupant and would ensure it would be cleared by the next day."
Ellison said that from Friday May 12 Yam was manipulating the author's bank and credit card accounts to get cash. Yam obtained a money transfer of £20,000 and took four cheques from the post in a form of identity theft known as "facility takeover", where the thief impersonates his victim over the internet or telephone, Ellison said.
Chappelow is thought to have died between May 15 and 23, during which time more post was stolen. The court heard that an email account was set up in Chappelow's name at an internet cafe in Charing Cross Road. It was later accessed at Yam's home.
Before Yam filed for bankruptcy he set up several businesses. In 2006 he lived with Hui Dong, his girlfriend, a few streets from Chappelow. The rent was in arrears and the couple were due to be evicted in June 2006. Yam had told estate agents in Hampstead he was worth £39m in Swiss francs and viewed properties in the area worth over £1m. The trial continues.
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