ONE of the conmen accused of murdering a wealthy woman and draining around £1 million of her assets was a "practised and extremely competent liar", a court has heard.
Carole Waugh, 49, regarded Rakesh Bhayani, 41, as a friend, even visiting him in prison and lending him £40,000, the Old Bailey was told.
He and Nicholas Kutner, 48, both described to the court as professional conmen with gambling habits, deny murdering Miss Waugh, who was said to be lonely and looking for love in the months before her death.
Concluding his opening statement, prosecutor Patrick Gibbs QC said of Bhayani: "He has lied repeatedly and convincingly, that's what he does for a living and what he has done all his life."
Miss Waugh disappeared from her home in Marylebone, central London, last year.
She was last seen in mid-April and her remains were found three and a half months later.
As soon as Miss Waugh was dead, a number of women were used to impersonate her, the court previously heard.
It is alleged that at Bhayani's instigation, the defendants - who had met in prison - also pretended to be Miss Waugh.
Money kept in various bank accounts was emptied into a Barclays current account and then taken out of there, Mr Gibbs said, while payments for gold bullion worth tens of thousands of pounds were made.
A third defendant, Elie Khoury, 40, of Spring Street, Paddington, faces a charge of conspiracy to defraud, which he denies.
Mr Gibbs told jurors they came to know one another as Khoury's brother had been in prison with Bhayani.
After he was arrested last August Khoury told police they were both gamblers, and knew Bhayani as being "all about fraud", the court heard.
He told officers he knew Bhayani used to get money from Miss Waugh, and that all of a sudden he started getting much more.
He claimed Bhayani has asked him if he knew any women between the ages of 45 and 60 who would go with him to the bank to get money out and told police he said he would help but never intended to. The court heard he also claimed to have no knowledge of what else Bhayani was up to, but Mr Gibbs said prosecutors disputed this claim.
He said that after Kutner was arrested he refused to answer any questions put to him by police.
Miss Waugh's brother Chris described her as someone who was "determined to make her own way in the City of London" when she left the mining village in Durham where they grew up to move to the capital in her early 20s.
He said she was "very private with regards to what she did and what she thought" but added that she was also "sociable and liked to mingle and have fun".
The bank manager described Miss Waugh as being "very careful with money" and was proud that she had paid off her mortgage on her £600,000 flat.
Mr Waugh told the court he last saw his elder sister over the Easter weekend last year when she went home to visit their mother.
He and their mother began to worry when they stopped hearing from her soon after this in mid-April and their calls went unanswered.
He told the court he would usually speak to her on the phone on a weekly or fortnightly basis, while she spoke to their mother, who has since died, every other day.
Mr Waugh told jurors he filed a missing persons report with police on May 7 and went on to become particularly concerned when he saw a letter from the National Lottery which said there was not enough money in her account for her to pay her direct debit.
"That did frighten me," he said, explaining that he knew she usually had up to £30,000 in her current account, along with other cash deposited elsewhere.
A statement by Miss Waugh's mother Margaret was read out to the court, which she made to police on July 24.
In it she described her daughter as "very kind" and generous but said she was "obsessive" with money and liked material things.
"Her going missing is totally out of character," the statement said.
"I don't know where she is. I keep on looking up and thinking she will walk in."
Miss Waugh's body was found on August 2, and from the state of her remains she had been dead for many months.
Prosecutors believe she died during the night of April 16/17.
Mr Gibbs said that from bloodstains in the flat, it appeared she was killed there, on or by her bed. She was stabbed in the neck.
Bhayani, of Chamberlayne Avenue, Wembley, north west London, denies murder but admits perverting the course of justice by concealing the death and also conspiracy to defraud.
Kutner, of Leighton Road, Kentish Town, north west London, denies murder and perverting the course of justice by concealing the death, but admits conspiracy to defraud.
The trial was adjourned to tomorrow.