Elderly love cheat (78) stole €227k from his 80-year-old mistress to lavish on Swedish 'queen' (27)
A 78-year-old love-cheat stole around £160,000 (€227,000) from his long-term mistress to finance the pop career of his new love interest aged 27.
Retired-surveyor and former local Rotary Club president Peter Rex Lawrence also swiped another £63,000 from the property company who managed his ex-mistress's home.
He persuaded 80-year-old Sheila Losack to twice re-mortgage her flat and broke open her jewellery box to pawn around 60 items worth £5,000 to £7,000.
All the money was sent to Swedish aspiring celebrity Tia Mehari, 27 - known to Lawrence as "Nefe" - after the Eqyptian queen Nefertiti.
He was sentenced to five years imprisonment when he appeared at Croydon Crown Court on Friday and continues to send "Nefe" £700 to £1200 per month from his private pension.
They met in Tottenham Court Road when the then 19-year-old asked for directions and Lawrence invited her to join him for a coffee and she revealed her pop star ambitions under the stage name Nefertiti.
"That moment certainly changed my life," said Lawrence before he was jailed. "She's lovely. Have you ever been in love?"
As for Ms Losack, who he single-handedly deceived and financially ruined, he said: "She's still got a roof over her head."
The court heard he sent "Nefe" another £50,000 - his share of his former matrimonial home - and "borrowed" another £10,000 from his sister.
First-time offender Lawrence, of Croydon, was homeless when Ms Losack - who he enjoyed a 20 year relationship with during his marriage - agreed he could move in.
She owned two flats knocked into one in Le Chateau, Croydon - bought after a life-time of work, mostly as a civil servant in the Overseas Estate Department of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office.
"He was divorcing his wife because of affairs he had, but Ms Losack found out he was having an affair with a woman in Sweden and their relationship ended," explained prosecutor Claire Robinson.
By April, 2009 Lawrence was living in the spare bedroom rent-free and on Ms Losack's recommendation he became Le Chateau's company secretary, which gave him full access to their bank account.
"He frequently asked her for money and for loans and because she felt sorry for him she agreed, but he never paid her back."
During a period of illness he helped Ms Losack with her financial affairs and set-up internet bank accounts and learned of all her investments and assets.
"For the next four years he systematically helped himself to money from those accounts and also stole her jewellery and from the residents of Le Chateau.
"When she confronted him over the broken jewellery box and missing valuables Lawrence became angry and told her he needed the money and she should: 'Get over it.'"
He withdrew £8,581 on her Co-op credit card; £601 on her Allders store card; £1,765 on her John Lewis card and £4,959 on her M&S card.
Lawrence persuaded her to re-mortgage in sums of £57,000 and and £25,000 to finance decorating and repairs and stole the lot, also using her internet banking to transfer another £59,000 to himself.
She eventually reported him to the police in 2013.
"He was putting her under pressure to sell her flat to an associate of his," said Miss Robinson.
"She has found herself virtually bankrupt and lost all of her savings and investments and the equity in her property.
"The standard of living she worked all her life to achieve has been taken away and she says Lawrence: 'Betrayed me at all levels.'
"Much of the stolen jewellery was from her family and had sentimental value and she has been left feeling violated."
Lawrence, a former Adventure Scouts leader, developed an "infatuation" with "Nefe" said his lawyer Fiona Dunkley.
"This was a fantasy relationship that was never consummated, but took over Mr Lawrence's life and rational though processes.
"He had been sending money to her out of fear she would otherwise end the relationship. 'Nefe' reminded him of a lost love he was left heartbroken by while living in Bahrain as a young man.
"He continues to be in love with 'Nefe' to this day. The money was for her alleged singing career, she was seeking a contract with Virgin.
"This is the choice he has made and he still wants to maintain a relationship with 'Nefe' even though it is conducted over the phone."
A doctor said the "Nefe fantasy" protects Lawrence against the guilt of reality and possible suicide attempts.
"He is ashamed and sad about what he has done," added Miss Dunkley. "He is too embarrassed and ashamed to ask for references from anyone, but his sister."
Lawrence pleaded guilty to six counts of theft and six counts of fraud by false representation on dates between April 1, 2009 and June 5, 2013.
He was ordered to pay £10,500 compensation to Ms Losack.