Sunday, 28 October 2012

Appetizer

My homemade concoction: Mashed potato topped with beef tomato bolognaise and mozarella cheese and Doritos nachos.

Andrew Gilligan and Matthew Brown

This post could be a lot shorter and punchier if I didn't have to back up what I'm saying with screenshots.  There's a reason why I've had to go into so much detail: I'm highlighting the deficiencies (and rudeness) of a journalist in a "quality" national newspaper.

The story is effectively this: Andrew Gilligan of the Telegraph produced an article last Sunday, which was, I believe, poorly researched and entirely wrong in its thrust.  He alleged that Mervyn Barrett's campaign to be the Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire was being secretly backed by American neoconservative lobbyists and companies pushing for police privatisation.  His story was largely based on statements by a "Matthew de Unger Brown".  I happened to know Matthew from personal experience of his fraudulent activities on and off line.  I saw Gilligan's piece last Monday evening and revealed what I knew about the fraudster on my blog at Tuesday lunchtime.  I cannot blame Gilligan for not having the personal knowledge that I did, and was relatively generous in the way I referred to his piece.  I said I suspected my post touched only on the "tip of the iceberg" about Matthew and got in touch with Gilligan to offer him more information and help to get to the bottom of the matter. 

Instead of taking me up on my offer, and having read my post, Gilligan made a decision.  This was to continue with the thrust of his original story, rather than consider if he had been duped.  He suggested that he himself had suspected that Brown might be a fraud, but could not say so for legal reasons.  He referred to me as "an anonymous blogger" in the piece.  After Barrett resigned and made a full statement confirming that Matthew had defrauded him, Gilligan said that he was cynical about this and said that something about this did not "ring true".  In responding to comments to that story, he first claimed he did not receive my emails offering assistance, and then said he did not consider talking to me because he could not establish my identity.  He also said he was not sure he would have taken any information I gave him seriously.  He then launched into a sustained set of attacks on the blogging fraternity generally.

The net result of this is I provided a substantial amount of additional material and leads to the Sunday Times, whose proper investigative journalism team has produced a full page feature for today's edition.  My impression of Gilligan is of a rude man who needs to realise that bloggers and journalists should work together for the greater good, rather than patronising those who share a common interest in revealing the truth in the public interest.  He also needs to realise it is a better person who admits that he makes a mistake and works to correct that, rather than being blinded by his own pride.

Gilligan's First Article

Now let's go to the detail.  On Friday 19 October, Gilligan reportedly spoke to "Matthew de Unger Brown" the campaign manager of Lincolnshire's then high profile PCC candidate, Mervyn Barrett.  Last Sunday, 21 October, Gilligan published an "exposé" [click for link] about Barrett's campaign.

My summary of the article is as follows:

1) it suggests secret neo-conservative US lobbyists were behind Barrett's campaign;
2) the campaign was run by the "Fund for the New American Century", funded in part by a variety of corporate donors with an interest in police privatisation;
3) the Fund's chairman is Matthew de Unger Brown who was Barrett’s special adviser, campaign manager and press spokesman;
4) "Investigation" of Mr Barrett’s campaign website reveals that it is registered to a NewYork and Washington-based political action committee called MatthewPAC.

I believe the entire thrust of the article to be wrong and based on deficient research by Gilligan.
 
As I said, to be fair to Gilligan, he does not have the personal information that I do on Matthew.  I have met him in one of his many guises and have been following his fraudulent activities for some time, having been a victim of them.  A generous way of looking at Gilligan's first article is that it was based on incomplete work and he jumped the gun by publishing it when he did.  

I set out what I know about Matthew Brown on my blog post on 23 October.   I was rather too kind to Gilligan when I stated that I wasn't sure that the Telegraph got the story "entirely right".  I stated there was a strong likelihood that the fundraising group MattPac doesn't exist and was in fact a figment of Matthew's imagination.  This assertion is based on evidence which I hold.  In effect, I believe Gilligan unveiled a fraud in the national press (for which he is to be applauded), but only by falling for a fantasy of the fraudster.

The fraudster Brown this time fantasising about standing for the US Senate

Gilligan's Second Piece

After I had published my blog,  Gilligan followed up his 21 October piece with this somewhat extraordinary article on 23 October.  In it he says he had:

".. originally hoped to write more on Sunday about the very curious phenomenon that is Matthew de Unger Brown. Most of it, unfortunately, had to go for legal reasons. There are, for instance, various pages on the internet claiming that his real name is Matthew Brown, that he has been convicted of fraud, expelled from the Tory Party, and has pretended to be various incarnations of British and European aristocracy. Matthew neither confirmed nor denied these claims when I put them to him on Friday. Cuttings searches do show various “Matthew Browns” convicted of fraud – but it’s a common name, and it could quite easily have been someone else. It would have been hard, therefore, to label him explicitly as a fraudster in our news story."

The key points to note are that Gilligan claims to have been aware that Brown might be a fraud and claims to have put these allegations to him in person on 19 October.  He says that Matthew did not deny the allegations, but nonetheless Gilligan published his piece on 21 October, without mentioning either of these facts.

Gilligan also claims to have known that neither the "Fund for the New American Century", nor its political action committee arm, "MatthewPAC", were registered with the US Federal Election Commission.  He noted they did not have much presence online.  This last statement is quite an understatement: its website is a single page.  I am surprised that a serious journalist could take it as evidence of the existence of this organisation, if this is what Gilligan did.  I certainly can find no other proof of its existence anywhere and Gilligan himself now claims he had his doubts.  Nonetheless, despite these doubts, Gilligan chose to publish on the Sunday Telegraph's website a piece that made the four points I have summarised above, as fact.  That piece appears, to me, to be based entirely on the evidence of the words of a suspected fraudster and a one page website of a body not registered with the US FEC.

I also do not quite understand why Gilligan states that the existence of allegations of fraud surrounding Matthew could not be mentioned on 21 October "for legal reasons", but the same author in the same publication could mention them by 23 October a few hours after I published my blog post. 

Mervyn Barrett Withdraws from the PCC Election

A day later, on 24 October 2012, Mervyn Barrett announced his withdrawal from the PCC race with the following statement.  The statement strikes me personally as a very sincere, heartfelt and deeply upsetting piece.  In it, Barrett stated that he been the "victim of a bizarre and hugely embarrassing deception by the person who was acting – and I use the word “acting” quite deliberately – as my principal adviser and campaign manager until Saturday."  He is of course referring to Brown, the fraudster whose previous activities I had set out.

Gilligan updated his second piece with this information and commented "Call me a cynic, but something about this still doesn't wholly ring true. Barrett has been campaigning for almost three months – can he really have suspected nothing until the Telegraph came to call?"

I think that is unfair and on a personal level it is deeply unkind.  Numerous people have testified to the good character and integrity of Barrett.  I have no evidence whatsoever to suspect his honesty.  Of course no one knows for sure if is he lying, but I do not understand why Gilligan decided to publish a comment airing doubts about the truth of Barrett's statement, without giving solid evidence to back that up.  On a human and journalistic level I'd say it would show better judgement to hold those suspicions back until evidence could be found and published.

Pond Life: "Anonymous Bloggers"

I blog under the name "Peter" and appear on Twitter with the user name "PME2013".  You can see my reasons for choosing to do so on this post.  However, my identity is not exactly a well-kept secret.  I have posted from my Twitter account to the New Statesman website, where I blogged last month, and to an American tour company where I also blog regularly under my full name.

In his piece of 23 October Gilligan referred to me, perhaps a little dismissively, as "an anonymous blogger who claims to know" Matthew.  My interest in looking at this point goes beyond his somewhat belittling description and to the honesty and integrity of a journalist at the Daily Telegraph.

Peter Savage picked up on this description, on the evening of 24 October:


It is possible that Gilligan is simply standing by his description of me as an anonymous blogger because my blog does not carry my full name.  However, in a later exchange with me he expressly stated that he could not establish my identity:



That is entirely untrue: Gilligan knew my full name at all material times.  I  emailed Gilligan a link to my post 5 minutes after publishing it, at 14.54 on 23 October:



The following day at 15:19, I sent a second email with some more information on the story and the following offer: "I am happy to help you in any way I can and to provide any proof of my identity etc if you require it." I gave Gilligan my full home address, and telephone numbers in this second email.

Gilligan claims not to have received my emails.  I did not receive a notification that they had bounced back, but leaving that aside, separately Gilligan had emailed a partner at a City law firm on the morning of 23 October.  He asked if she had any leads on the story.  She happens to be a personal friend of mine.  She responded at 14:59 that day:


Gilligan acknowledged and responded to this email within 10 minutes, at 15:08 on 23 October.

[Name of my friend redacted]

Gilligan can say that I'm an anonymous blogger, but it is entirely misleading for him to imply that he did not know my name in full, or that he could not establish my identity.  I am on the electoral roll, the roll of solicitors, and am a company director.  I had offered to speak to him and this offer was passed on through an email from my friend, which he acknowledged.  Had he spoken to me, I could have given him four other people up here to talk to in person about these "potentially defamatory claims": three of us had actually gone to the police and been interviewed in person about Brown's fraudulent activities. 

All I can conclude is that Gilligan did not want to establish my identity, not that he could not.  He either needs a lesson in the meaning of the use of modal verbs, or one in honesty.  My own guess is that he did not want to talk to me, because having read my post, he was aware that he had been taken in by another of Matthew's frauds and was embarrassed.  He therefore falsely claimed he could not verify my identity.

I'd also like to pick up again on the fact that Gilligan seems very happy to doubt my words (remember I was recommended to him by a personal friend who is a partner at a City law firm), and to cast doubt on those of Barrett.  By contrast, Gilligan thinks the words of Barrett's official spokesman count "for more".  That spokesman is the person whom he describes as "the very curious phenomenon that is Matthew de Unger Brown" and about whom he claims he was aware there were fraud rumours circulating on the Internet.  This shows curious judgement on the part of a national journalist.

Gilligan's Rapid Twitter Searching Abilities

Gilligan also claims to have found my blog through a Twitter search:


My blog was published at 14.49.  I first publicised it by a tweet (below) at 14.51.  He would have had to be at his desk searching for the name "Matthew Brown" that I used to find it.  It would not have shown up for anyone searching the name "Matthew de Unger Brown", which is how Gilligan has always referred to him. 


Gilligan was also jolly quick to find it from a Twitter search, because my email alerted him to it three minutes later at 14.54.  Even if he didn't receive that, my friend's email alerted him to it eight minutes later at 14.59.   Therefore if he really did find my blog as a result of his own research on Twitter, carried out before he received these emails, he truly deserves the hashtag #ImpressiveSpeedyJournalist.

Alternatively, make of Gilligan's claim what you will. 

Bloggers "Go with any old stuff they find on Google"


Now that assertion is actually taking the piss. I'm not a prick, and I would really rather Gilligan does not make me out as one.  My piece was carefully written and every factual assertion I made can be backed up with evidence.  With my legal background (Cambridge/ Clifford Chance), I am quite aware that I might have to prove any potentially defamatory allegations in a court of law.  It is a risk every writer takes.  Pressing "publish" is not something I do without some amount of thought.

In this case, I would have to produce a whole set of material that I have to hand, much of which is already on a disc given to Suffolk Police.  I was quite happy to provide any of this to Gilligan to help him with his story, but it is not something I can readily publish on a blog.  Much of it is emails between me and Matthew, as well as a whole set of screenshots.  In my own mind, however, I was absolutely satisfied that I could back every single line of my post up. 

I do also think anyone reading my post could reasonably assume that despite the story being fantastic, it is backed up on its face by enough screen shots, links and other material to give it some amount of credence.  It is plainly not a work of fantasy: there is a difference.  A blog does not receive over 300,000 hits if it routinely publishes nonsense.  His comment is, I believe, simply indicative of his completely dismissive and condescending attitude to bloggers in general.  I do not "go with any old stuff I find on Google", as I shall demonstrate below.

A Lesson For Gilligan In Research

Gilligan's comment about Google searches is presumably referring to Matthew's fraud conviction in 2004, which I refer to in my post.  Gilligan dismisses this as not being a proven link because Matthew Brown is a common name, and it could quite easily have been someone else.

He is correct, which is why a responsible blogger or a thorough, investigative journalist would look for other evidence such as conducting a search of paper copies of newspapers to see if there is provable link.

If Gilligan had done the latter he would have found around 8 reports about this particular story at the time.  The one below, from the Scottish Daily Mail, produces a photograph that shows exactly which Matthew Brown was involved, together with his month and year of birth (August 1984).  This is the Matthew Brown, who is the fraudster who has recently worked as Barrett's campaign manager, whose image has appeared in the media, and whom I have met in person.


I therefore find it offensive that Gilligan is lecturing me about research and evidence, when he could have found the above evidence himself with a very small amount of work.  There is also a great deal of irony about the fact that the only evidence I can find for the existence of MattPac is a shitty one page website that comes up after a Google search.  More about that in a moment. 

Gilligan also says he was aware, before my blog was published, of various pages on the Internet claiming that Matthew's real name is Matthew Brown, that he has been convicted of fraud, was expelled from the Tory Party, and has pretended to be various incarnations of British and European aristocracy. 

How interesting.  I can't find any such pages, and I've spent quite a long time looking.  I did have them, screenshot from 2008, but I cannot find them in searches four years later.  I'm particularly interested in two things:
  • Any page on the Internet that relates to Matthew's alleged expulsion from the Tory Party.  I've only ever seen it on his fake Wikipedia entry as "Sir Matthew Brown".  This was deleted in April 2008, which I screenshot at the time and have since held privately.  I can't find a retrieved or cached copy.  
  • Any page on the Internet that claims Matthew pretended to be a member of the European aristocracy.  The sole example that I know of his claiming this was a handwritten card which we discovered signed "Paris, Prince von Thurn und Taxis" that he left at Thornham Magna church in Suffolk.
If Gilligan can enlighten me as to how he was aware of these two specific allegations from the Internet, before having read my post, I'd be delighted.

A Lying Blogger Who Can't Read Properly

When challenged in the comments section on various points about his second story, Gilligan behaved extremely rudely to me.  He condescendingly asked me "for a second time.. to read what I said properly".  He said that given my "repeated misrepresentation of what I've written", he is not sure that if I had provided him with more material he would have taken it seriously. 

As if this were a matter of terrible importance to his pride, Gilligan wrote that I was prompted by his story to publish my blog post.  I responded that "For the record, your piece did not prompt me to write my blog.  I have had the material linking the real life fraud with the fake QC profile and fake MattPac profile for some time.  An email exchange with Matthew prompted me to publish it.  I thought it would help you with your story: instead you have responded with personal rudeness and a complete lack of grace."

He responded to his by doubting my honestly: "Nor, frankly, do I believe your claim that your blog wasn't prompted by what I wrote."   Sigh: not for the first time do I have to publish something to prove to a dick on the internet that I'm not a liar:
 
I think this is quite self-explanatory.  I believed Matthew was behind the fake Mountbatten account.  I tweeted about this on the evening of 22 October, which led my friend Peter Lord to alert me to the BBC story about Matthew, which  led on to my reading Gilligan's exposé of 21 October.  As a result of my tweets Matthew emailed me in a panic, out of the blue.  I was fully prepared to let everything go until I became annoyed with him once again and decided it was time to reveal the full facts I knew about him.

Gilligan seemed a natural port of call because his article, for all its poor research, did undoubtedly have the effect of Barrett resigning.  My story was therefore now of much greater public interest, but Gilligan's article did not "prompt" me to blog.  My annoyance at Matthew did.   As matters turned out, I did not speak to Gilligan, but blogged myself.  It's a minor point but it shows up Gilligan's vanity and his willingness to doubt perfectly decent people's integrity, on a national newspaper's website, with nothing to back it up.  He is wrong.

Matthew and MattPac

I had possessed all of my material on Matthew for a long time.  I made the link between Banffers QC and Matthew, who had defrauded me in real life, at a pub with my barrister friend Adam on 24 August 2011.  I was alerted by Adam to a new fake twitter account in which Matthew was posing as the CEO of MattPac, together with a related Facebook page, Wikipedia entry.  Finally I found  the MattPac website on which Gilligan seems to have placed so much reliance.  I took a day or so to prepare my approach to Matthew.

I emailed him on 26 August 2011 and put to him (amongst other things):


His response was:


Note the line: "On-Line... I have let my imagination have free rein".  As a result of this exchange, Matthew deleted all Internet presence of MattPac, a process which was completed by 23.00 on 27 August 2011.  I am not persuaded that had MattPac in any way been a real fund, Matthew would have deleted all presence of it in August 2011.

Matthew also agreed to disappear for good from Twitter, to leave my friends alone, to keep away from my home area, and to pay me £25 a week off the £1080 CCJ I held against him.  He broke at least three of these four agreements.

HM Prison Wayland

Further, I now believe I know why Matthew was "away from it all in 2010": this letter in "Inside Time" suggests that there was a Matthew Brown at this time in HMP Wayland.  Inside Time is an online publication for prisoners.  In it the author writes about his Roman Catholic faith (a common theme from Matthew's Banffers days). 

Again, Gilligan might huff and puff that it's a common name and you can't rely on an internet search.  I agree that it isn't definitive proof (though I do have three other pieces of evidence to back this up) but it is a useful pointer for a proper investigative journalist to search official records.  I have not been able to do so (I am a mere "anonymous blogger"), but should I be correct, we would have to believe that Matthew came straight out of prison and a year later set up a neo-conservative political fund with offices in New York and Washington, and was appointed its "global CEO " as he claimed (on Twitter).

MattPac?  I am quite sure it does not exist for all of the reasons given.  Given its existence is the very heart of Gilligan's first article, he should have done more research and not been so ready to publish.  This is shoddy work, Gilligan, and to use your words - it is not good enough!

Best in Breed: A Lesson For Gilligan

Finally, we move to Gilligan's sustained assault on bloggers and blogging.  All of it is of course made - deliciously - from a blog, the irony of which has been noted by plenty who saw the exchange.

I understand that Gilligan's employers are keen to develop blogging as a future business model.  They perhaps ought to send their employees on some courses to understand the medium better and to not display such obvious contempt for it:






This tweet was one in a series between Gilligan and the respected journalist, blogger and lawyer David Allen Green.  What I think we saw was a clash between old and new: the pompous voice of (not terribly impressive) investigative journalism sneering down its nose at the new medium of blogging.  As DAG pointed out to Gilligan: "Your bluster and arrogance in response to critical comments is misconceived.  But it also short-sighted. The more sensible journalists now work with and not against bloggers in their respective areas."

He is absolutely correct in the last respect: I have received a lot more information on Matthew from all sorts of people who have seen my post.  I have forwarded it all, along with all the source material that backs up by post, to Robin Henry at the Sunday Times.  Robin is not of Gilligan's "breed": he is charming, polite and has fully acknowledged my contribution on Twitter.  Robin and his colleagues have apparently done an excellent job on following up leads from this and there is a full page spread published on Matthew today.  As I suspected, my knowledge was the tip of the iceberg.


It is a valuable service that all this has now come up and I look forward to reading the story after I've published this post.  The Sunday Times can reach a far wider audience than my blog and can warn people of Matthew's activities.  Matthew fully deserves the exposure.  It is an excellent demonstration of what DAG talks about: bloggers and journalists cooperating to get the truth into the public domain.  Andrew Gilligan has nothing but his own rudeness, condescension and arrogance to thank for the fact that the piece is not in the Sunday Telegraph.


UPDATE: Quite remarkable.  Alerted to the above, here is Gilligan's rude response.  I have reported him and await the Telegraph's reply.  I read this as a defamation of me by the Daily Telegraph, on their website, which is read by tens of thousands of people:






Very Estee perfume

I was shopping at Boots in Buchana Gallery yesterday and they were giving out ribbons smelling of Very Estee perfume by Estee Lauder. I took one, smelt it and didnt think much of it. When I was home, I placed the ribbon on my shelf and spent time in the kitchen cooking.

After dinner, I went into my room and I noticed a very nice smell. Everytime I walked pass the shelf (i jad forgotten about the ribbon) it smelled really good. Then, I saw the ribbon and realised the smell was Very Estee!

It really smells so good I am tempted to buy it. I checled the Boots website and It cost 51 pounds!! :( ah well, for now I will just have to live with that ribbon. Amazingly, the smell is still strong after a day.

My homemade yoghurt using Easiyo

I am so happy that the yoghurt I made turned out really well. I made 1 litre of strawberry yoghurt and it has been part of my daily breakfast the past few days. Instead of having chocolate milk with my cereal, I now have yoghurt with the cereal.

It is definitely a better alternative as it does not contain artificle ingredients, good for digestive health and it is recommended for diabetics, meaning low sugar content.

Friday, 26 October 2012

The floating man

This guy was in Buchanan Street and he looked like he was sitting without any support.....

But, actually, did u know that he had a chair inside his clothes..

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Anonymous Blogging

People blog anonymously for a whole number of reasons.  There is absolutely nothing inherently sinister about it: it might be because they're in a job (e.g. Police) where they wish to be candid and therefore must protect their identity.

In my case I work with teenage Americans on educational tours around Europe, as a part time job.  I've absolutely no desire for them to google my name and find my blog and Twitter account coming up, where I can be frank, personal and relaxed about what I say.

Last year I was accused by a legal professional of being a fraud.  I think his exact words were "I'm unfollowing you, Peter.  Spidey Sense tells me there's something wrong about your account."  We had quite a few mutual followers and the discussion went on for a day or so, with my asking him to say exactly what was wrong with my account and his refusing to do so.

Some people, apparently, have "Spidey Sense"

Finally, a disability campaigner came out and said that she thought my blog about HIV might be a lie, presumably designed to get attention and/or sympathy.  When you take trust and integrity in social media as seriously as I do, and you write so frankly and personally on a topic that matters a great deal to you, this really hurts.  I published a box of my medication with my name on it (PME are my initials) and told her to google Efavirenz and Combivir.  She did, and immediately apologised.  Mr "Spidey Sense" has not apologised, ever, nor explained what his concern was.

I feel quite insecure at being banded in with "legal bloggers".  I am not one.  I read law at Cambridge, followed by and worked in a major City law firm (Clifford Chance) from 1996 to 2002.  I am a qualified solicitor and remain "on the roll", but have not practised since then.  I am now building a spa retreat in East Anglia.  I do not currently hold a practising certificate and have never held myself out as providing a client with legal advice (which is of course, illegal).  This is why I deliberately and carefully use the words "sometime lawyer" in my bio.

Last night, again, my identity as a solicitor was called into doubt.  In addition, Andrew Gilligan of the Telegraph was dismissive and rude about bloggers in general, and "anonymous bloggers" in particular, with reference to my post about the fraud Matthew Brown (see the comments section here).

If you've followed me for a while, you'll know I blog on a few serious things and a whole load of crap in between.  I have a very real legal background, but I do not pretend to be up to date on law like the "proper" bloggers out there.  What I am not is a fraud, and I don't tweet lies.  I know over 150 people off Twitter in real life: there are enough of them to call me out on anything I tweeted or wrote that was untrue.  It does my head in when people suggest I might.  I'd really rather like anyone to stop suggesting it.



I try to keep my name off Twitter and this blog for a reason, but if it settles it once and for all, above is my name and my law society membership number.  I'm doing it this way, as a Google search won't bring up the words on the image.  Please feel free to call the Solicitors Regulation Authority (their online search engine only lists practising solicitors) if you think this somehow magically makes what I write more trustworthy and deserving of being taken seriously.  Personally I don't and I think Gilligan is a knob for suggesting it does - but hey, that's just my opinion.

And apologies for my grumpiness and insecurity about this: normal service will be resumed.

See? I'm happy now




Do you see what I see?

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

A Warning About Matthew Brown

The son of a late Hong Kong businessman, a leading light of the Conservative Youth Movement, a Baronet, the boyfriend of a CNN anchor, a French Count, a German Prince, an English QC, a US Republican fundraiser, the CEO of a charitable foundation... May I introduce you to Matthew Brown?

Matthew Brown

None of the Above

Matthew Brown is in fact none of the above.  He is, in fact, a very naughty boy.  He is a serial fraudster who is in somewhat hot water at the moment.  He has been working as the campaign manager and special adviser to high-profile Police and Crime Commissioner candidate Mervyn Barrett.  As reported by the BBC, he recently resigned from this position after his connections to a US right-wing lobbying group were unveiled by Andrew Gilligan in the Telegraph.

I write this blog not out of spite, but because I believe there is a genuine public interest in naming Matthew Brown as a fraud.  He has exploited the goodwill of people I know, cost them money, taken in thousands of people online, abused the trust that exists (and which I greatly value) in the social media world, hurt student barristers, damaged the campaign of a PCC candidate and lied continually.

Matthew is 28 and has a long history of fraud.  The first instance I can find is this Evening Standard story from 2004 which describes his conviction of an £18,000 fraud by the then 20 year old, who was eventually recognised by a ticket inspector boarding a first class train.  224 similar offences were taken into account.  He is described in that article as an "unemployed spend-thrift" who had a trust fund that would kick in at the age of 25.

The trust fund (if it ever existed) did not step in when the 24 year old Matthew Brown was declared bankrupt in the High Court of Justice on 26 February 2008 (11456 of 2007).  The insolvency service informed me that his discharge from bankruptcy was suspended for a period of non-cooperation with the Official Receiver, but he was eventually discharged on 4 May 2009.

Meeting Matthew

In March 2008 (weeks after his bankruptcy) someone purporting to be Renate de Unger, the private secretary of a "Sir Matthew Brown", contacted us about staying in a farmhouse in Suffolk that I part own.  We had never heard of him and knew none of the above information.  We usually only accept bookings after the cheque clears, but in this case "Sir" Matthew wanted to say at very short notice and a quick google search revealed a Wikipedia entry that seemed to suggest he was "kosher".  He asked whether he could land by helicopter, but instead chose to come by car.





The entry was deleted shortly afterwards, but it was full of wild claims such as "In 2000 he founded the Conservative Youth Alliance. In July 2001 the Independent newspaper called him 'the King of Kindergarten politics'... Brown inherited from his father and godfather a multi million pound fortune including a majority stake in the hotel and restaurant company Icehome.  It owns a number of upscale properties both in Europe and the Middle East.  In February 2008 Brown entered into a civil partnership with Sebastian Innes-Kerr.  Brown's mother was born Baroness Renate de Unger, former daughter in law of Edmund de Unger who owns one of the worlds largest collections of Islamic and Medivial [sic] art. Brown's godparents include HRH Princess Margarita of Romania and Lord Bethel, the former Conservative MEP, HIH Prince Valentin Romanoff and Vice Admiral Sir Neville Course."

Blah, blah, blah...

"Sir" Matthew trashed our lovely farmhouse and his cheque bounced.  I'm a solicitor by profession (i.e I am on the roll of solicitors, but no longer practise).  I immediately sued him for the money at the Belgravia address he had given, obtained judgement against him, but when I came to enforce it (by sending bailiffs round) they were unable to do so.

We did not meet Matthew on this occasion.  However, he really is quite brazen.  Unbeknown to us he popped up again some time later in our area, this time posing as a "Dr Brown".  He stayed in a holiday cottage belonging to a friend and again bounced the cheque.  On a third occasion he came up, pretending to be "Paris" the German boyfriend of Anderson Cooper [correction: this was years ago and I've now been told it was Richard Quest], a CNN anchor.  He weaseled his way into my best friend's home, had tea with him, and bounced a cheque at a local B&B which belongs to another friend, a local (genuine) Baroness.  He left a card in the church signed "Prinz von Thurn und Taxis" and test drove a second hand Aston Martin from a local garage trading off his "friendships" locally. 

Because we had never met "Sir Matthew" or "Dr Brown" it took some time to piece all of this together.  An email to CNN security confirmed that the person who had turned up was most definitely not Richard Quest's boyfriend.  The local café owners had met "Dr Brown" and when we showed them a picture of "Sir Matthew" they confirmed it was the same person. We visited our local police station and gave interviews and an official statement in April 2009.  The matter was passed to Stowmarket CID and we were informed that Matthew was due to report to Peterborough Police Station because of other trouble he was involved in.  We heard nothing further.

Matthew on Twitter

Then, in the Spring of 2011 a curious character called Banffers QC appeared on Twitter.  He managed to take in a fair chunk of the London legal tweeting community.  His account began to become quite abusive about gay people and more and more fantastical, which led to my "outing" him as a fake by a blog post on 8 May 2011.  What is not on that post is the fact I found out subsequently he had taken in students of law, to whom he offered pupillages "at his chambers".  It is so easy to dismiss Twitter fakery as "harmless fun" - in their case they were devastated by the fraud.

Banffers admitted to me that he and the "blonde bf" were frauds by an email from an account called "Sebastian Comte de Polignac" (note: according to his fake Wiki entry he is in a civil partnership with a "Sebastian Innes-Kerr").  He lives in an absolute fantasy world of aristocratic titles and noble lineages.  At this point I had no idea Banffers and the fraud who had turned up in Suffolk were the same person.

Matthew said I did him a favour in exposing him.   It was not enough to keep him off Twitter for long, however.  He reappeared in the summer of 2011.  With his new persona he claimed to be a Tea Party US republican fund raiser and the chairman of an organisation called Matthew Pac ("The Fund for the New American Century")

 

I found out about this new account over a drink with a very bright young barrister pal, Adam.  Adam said he suspected Matthew was in fact Banffers QC.  I went to follow the Twitter account and found that I'd been pre-emptively blocked without having had any interactions.  This struck me as very odd.  The account was full of Banffers like pretension: Matthew claimed to have attended 911 commemorations separately with both David Cameron and the Prince of Wales.  It spouted forth very right wing Tea Party views and appeared fantastical and disturbed.

We checked the website domain details for MattPac and discovered it was registered to Icehome, the company he had supposedly been left in his father's will.  The registered email was an Icehome BT internet account.  That is rather odd for a New York registered political fundraising organisation.  A few more checks (my friend Gary helped me this time) showed that 81st Street is in 10024, not 10012, and it is either West or East.  The phone number doesn't have the correct number of digits for a NY number.  We wondered whether Sandra Howard exists, or whether he just liked the name of the wife of the former Tory leader.


This fake encyclopedia entry gave details of "Sir Matthew's" heritage.  It states he married Renate Ingeborge de Unger, who this time is his wife, not his mother or his secretary.  It also says he graduated from Aberdeen, not Buckingham, as the Wikipedia entry did.  I did some googling and found that Matthew de Unger Brown was claiming to be the 10th Lord Banff on Facebook (the account has since been deleted, but I took a screenshot at the time).  Lord Banff is in fact an extinct Scottish title.



Yup, we now had a definite link between Banffers QC and Matthew Brown - this was then confirmed when Adam said he had received emails from Banffers from the Icehome BT email account.

Matthew Goes Off Twitter

I contacted Matthew by email at his "MattPac" website.  I asked if the American authorities were aware of his prior fraud conviction.  I asked if the political "fund raising" organisation was real, and whether the Federal Authorities might be interested in hearing about it if it were not.  Matthew responded saying he was sorry for everything and he would delete the website and his latest fake Twitter account.  A Wikipedia entry relating to MattPac definitely did go.  He had befriended lots of my friends on Twitter (it seems he always targets gays and lawyers) and he promised never to come near them or me again.

He said he was in fact on disability benefit and would pay back, at £25 per week, the money he owed pursuant to the CCJ.  I had my doubts about elements of his story (they were confirmed by a magistrate friend), but was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.  Yes, he'd fraudently weasled his way and exploited the hospitality and good will of my friends and conned me out of money, but I did not want to cause him unnecessary suffering if he was genuinely sorry and willing to make amends.  I did not write this blog at that time for those reasons.

All was well until he started missing payments for various reasons, then stopped paying entirely this Spring.  I contacted him twice by email: he didn't bother to reply.

More Twitter Fakery

This weekend my boyfriend showed me an odd looking account on Twitter: it was a young Earl called Henry Mountbatten (Lord Medina).  Separately I was DMd about it from someone else who had their suspicions it was the return of the infamous Lord Credo who had tricked so many people.

One look down the account, with its pretentious name dropping, mention of cooks and butlers, and the number of gay men it followed, and I had suspected it was Matthew once more.  Further, it was set up on 7 May 2011 (the exact weekend of the Bannfers exposé) and didn't tweet for some months after that date.  It had 1156 followers, which from 594 tweets is impressive.  There were conversations with three separate barristers and even a tweet from the chair of LGBTory and Conservative candidate for Manchester Central wishing him happy birthday.


I therefore decided to call bullshit and tweeted the following last night.  There was no denial or response from the account, but within minutes the real life Matthew Brown mysteriously emailed me out of the blue and asked "Peter. How much do I still owe you? I will settle it tonight/tomorrow if you confirm an amount."  That would seem to me to be a little too much of a coincidence straight out of the blue and seems quite obviously linked to my tweet: either Matthew was randomly following my every tweet or he had received the @ notification, directly or from a friend running the account.


There is an actual Henry Mountbatten.  A quick search on Tattler reveals that he looks nothing like the young guy whose pictures appeared on the account.  He has a sister who is on Twitter.  Her account looks entirely genuine: no pretension, just tweets mainly about equestrianism, which is clearly her passion.  I copied her in on a tweet, asking if she was aware of the account and said "presumably this is your brother".  A few moments later the Henry Mountbatten account was deleted.  It has since returned and has admitted it is a fraud.


Matthew swears to me he is not behind this account.  I don't honestly know and unlike in the other instances I do not have "proof".  However it surprise me if there were not a link.  If there isn't it, there exists yet another person abusing the trust that exists on social media and in either case I'm fairly sure the real Henry Mountbatten would not be too pleased about it. 

PCC Mervyn Barrett Involvement

And finally we come back to Matthew Brown's involvement with the Lincolnshire PCC candidate, Mervyn Barrett.  All the time Matthew was pretending to me to be on disability benefits, he was in fact working for Mervyn.  I'm not sure that the Telegraph got the story entirely right.  I think, for the reasons above, there is a strong likelihood that the fundraising group MattPac doesn't exist and it is another figment of Matthew's imagination.  If you like, the Telegraph may have exposed a fraudster, but only by feeding into and believing another fraud of his. [UPDATE: Andrew Gilligan has accepted that MattPac is not registered with the US Federal Election Commission.]

Mervyn is, I am told, a man of great integrity.  He appears to be an unwitting victim of Matthew Brown's never-ending fraud.  Mervyn has been in the press before regarding his fake followers on Twitter: the Telegraph reported that his account soared from 330 followers on 28 June to 17,014 by 9 July this year, with his new followers largely from Latin America, southeast Asia and the United States.  A source close to his campaign told the Sunday Times: “We think perhaps it was the work of an over-enthusiastic supporter as Mervyn would never dream of doing something like this.” One wonders who this could have been.

I feel sorry for Mervyn, but nonetheless the position of PCC is one of great responsibility.  I have three specific questions for him relating to Matthew:
  • How did someone of Matthew's background (his fraud conviction and bankruptcy are on the public record and easily discovered) come to hold the position of campaign manager?
  • Where is his funding coming from?  Is it through Matthew's fraudulent activities, or not?  This is question the Telegraph quite rightly raises.
  • A final minor question is why he has hung on to his 17,000 fake followers?  It is one he still has not answered and again goes to his integrity.
I find it worrying that if all this had not come out, Matthew could have been in a position of power and influence over someone who actually held the position of Police and Crime Commissioner.

Warning

As I said out the outset, I write this blog not to "hurt" Matthew for the sake of it.  I don't think it's too wild a suggestion to say that he needs help.  He may be depressed, he may be vulnerable, but I think he needs to be held account for his actions.  He has hurt people and that is wrong.  I also agree with the Telegraph: Mervyn Barrett has some questions to answer and the voters in the Lincolnshire PCC election need to have a full picture on his campaign team and activities.

Therefore if you come across Matthew Brown, Dr Matthew Brown, Sir Matthew Brown, Matthew de Unger Brown, Lord Matthew Brown, Anderson Cooper's English boyfriend posing as a German, Sebastian Comte de Polignac, Prinz von Thurn und Taxis, Banffers QC, Lord Banff, or a Lord Medina who looks nothing like the real Lord Medina, I'd advise you to exercise rather a lot of caution.  Matthew clearly spends hours creating fake personas, fake Wikipedia entries, fake Twitter and Facebook profiles and at a guess believes some of the lies he has created.  He needs help, but we also need protection from the harm he can cause.  I suspect this blog sets out only the tip of the iceberg.



UPDATE 23 Oct 21.50:

Mervyn Barrett withdrew from the PCC election this evening at around 5pm.  A statement is due to be released tomorrow.

Many thanks to the third commentator below.  "SebsFoundation" is indeed a fraudulent account that includes pictures of Matthew (its "CEO") and purports to make charitable grants.  There is no record of it whatsoever at the Charity Commission website.  The name Sandra again comes up.  It is the familiar pattern with the account: Matthew has used it to follow a number of gay men and lawyers.  It is also rather odd that an official charity website should be interested in the tweets of gay porn stars such as Kieron Knight and Brent Everett.




The first person that @SebsFoundation followed is @EpicSebastian1 (an account which has not tweeted in some time).  It carries the profile picture that Banffers QC passed off as his boyfriend, Sebastian "Comte de Polignac". 




UPDATE 24 Oct 15.00

Many thanks to Helen, below, who pointed out this tweet, stored by Topsy.  Mervyn Barrett has deleted his Twitter account, but this raises yet further questions about his judgment.  As a reminder, @SebsFoundation (account also now deleted) is not a registered charity, it had no working website, and it followed, amongst others, gay porn actors.





UPDATE Oct 24 17.00

Here is Mervyn Barrett's statement on his resignation.  My heart genuinely goes out to him.  It would appear Andrew Gilligan's exposé did in fact jump the gun, although indirectly it revealed what a liar Matthew is.  The fact that Matthew was in charge of Mervyn's twitter account explains the tweet above.



UPDATE Oct 28 17.00

The Sunday Times has produced a full page feature (page 11) based on information set out in this blog and with additional research.  Matthew stands accused of having defrauded Mervyn Barrett of £100,000.  Matthew married a real life millionairess in her 50s, Renate de Unger Brown in 2005.  He was 21 and gay, she was in her 50s.  They separated acrimoniously, and she died in 2010.  Matthew took her name and passed her off either as his secretary or his mother (as can be seen in the Wikipedia entry above).  I have separate information, now verified, that Matthew was convicted of fraud in 2010 and was sentenced to 30 months.  He spent around a year in HMP Wayland in Norfolk before being released.

Sunday Times 28 October 2012

UPDATE 3 August 2014 Apparently he's still at it....
    
Sunday Times 3 August 2014




Saturday, 20 October 2012

Thursday, 18 October 2012

What Same-Sex Marriage Means to Me

Lots has been written about the case for same-sex marriage from a theoretical stand-point, from an equality stand-point, and from a civic rights stand-point.  I've done blogs on these myself: it's very easy to set out the arguments.  It's also not terribly hard to see through the arguments for keeping discrimination (sometimes alarmist, sometimes spiteful, often disingenuous).  They all pretty much boil down in essence to "we have it and you're not allowed it".

What I haven't done is explain what it would mean introducing marriage equality means to me on a personal level, and trying to speak honestly about why I care so much about this.

Wanting to be Straight

When I was a teen I desperately wanted to be straight.  I wanted a "nice" executive home (*shudder*) in somewhere like Surrey , a "pretty" wife, a son and a daughter, plus a dog or two.  I can remember falling to sleep, thinking about the exact interior design of the rooms of the house and dreaming of my nice straight bourgeois existence.

It's fair to it came as quite a shock to realise that the look of the interior design was more important to me than the look of the wife (heavens, the warning bells were chiming).  This was no choice: I was gay in the same way that you are right or left-handed.  I realised that the *only* choice I had was whether to be honest and come out, or to ruin my own life (and that of someone else) with the most fundamental deceit.  The first option meant happiness might be hard to find.  The second option meant it would be certain to never come.

I had a total absence of positive role models for "gay life".  There was nothing.  Gays were camp objects of comedy like Mr Humphries on "Are You Being Served?" or dangerous weirdos to steer well clear of.  The age of consent was still 16 for straights, 21 for gays.  We couldn't serve in the military.  I couldn't go to the Foreign Office: I was a blackmail risk.  The law allowed employers to discriminate against us.

Things Have Changed

Things have changed.  My friend Henrietta can now longer by turned away in tears with her girlfriend from a hotel in Dorset at Easter "because we don't want that sort of thing going on here".  Imagine what that would actually feel like to you.  Then try to get your head around the Christian Institute  still arguing today that the law should "be more flexible" in allowing them to discriminate by slamming the door in the face of whomever they like when they decide to open their home as a money making business.  Fortunately Parliament, society and the courts have decided that whether you're Black, Jewish or Gay that this is wrong.

Things have changed.  My friends Donald and Michael bought a dilapidated Georgian house cheaply in Spitalfields and lovingly renovated it.  They lived there for 25 years until Michael died suddenly.  The house was suddenly worth an awful lot more money than they'd paid for it and Don was faced with a £400,000 bill.  If they had been husband and wife he would have benefited from a temporary postponement of inheritance tax following his bereavement.  Instead Don was forced to sell their home and died of a heart attack 6 months later.  Thanks to the introduction of Civil Partnerships in 2004, civil partners are now treated the same as straight spouses in this respect.

I'm enormously grateful for all the changes.  They have come rapidly.  No longer do we hear Tory MPs (at least not openly) thundering that they will not "vote for the legalisation of the buggery of young men" in the House of Commons.  I may live in a bit of a bubble, but I feel that wider society has changed and I can live much more openly and on much more of a level playing field.  Being the subject of discrimination or related abuse is a vile experience.  I would not wish it on anyone.
 
Cake Decoration, Bremen Shop Window
I clocked the above pic this July in an ordinary little shop window in the north of Germany.  There were a couple of other same-sex cake decorations (even though Germany also still does not have marriage equality).  I would never have seen such a thing as a kid living there in the 80s.  My heart just lifted.  It was so mainstream, so not a political statement.  These were just cake decorations with a load of other decorations in a window in the Schnoor in Bremen.  It was very small, but was reflective of a sea-change in much of Europe.

Masses of other countries of course do not have the legal protections I do, and lesbian cake shop decorations are far from the norm around the world.  There are Henriettas, Donalds and Michaels facing considerably very real, life-destroying discrimination, even in "developed" countries such as the US. I fully realise that, but again I'm thankful for where things are in my everyday life.

Marriage Equality

The last massive and symbolic change in our country is the area of marriage equality.  Ten countries, including several of our closest neighbours have introduced it already.  I'm convinced we will look back on this time and the hurtful, sometimes vicious comments of those opposed to this change and genuinely be puzzled by what the whole "debate" was about.  Extending the voting franchise to women was a life or death issue a hundred years ago: now (I'd hope) even the most idiotic or bigoted would argue against it. 

Marriage equality is quite simply about fairness.  It is about saying that I am as equal a member of society as you are.  I pay taxes like you, I am a human being like you.  I do not think it is unreasonable that I should have the same civic rights.  I am in a relationship with a guy I think the world of.  Marriage is by no means for everyone.  However, it matters a huge amount to me to have the option, should the time ever come, to have any relationship that I am in recognised properly by the state.  If I want to go through this huge step and "tie the knot" I believe it should be with my husband.  I do not think it fair to be relegated to the status of the ugly named 'civil partner' in an apartheid style "separate but equal" institution.

Equal Treatment, Dignity, Affirmation, Respect.  Is that so unreasonable?

I see people preaching discrimination as telling me I am worth less than they are.  It is quite simply an attack on the whole of my community and it is unavoidably personal.  It hurts me, just as the stories I've related above fill me with sadness and sometimes anger.  There is absolutely no justifiable reason for the situation to be like this.  Marriage equality would cost its opponents nothing other than losing a bit more of their ever-diminishing power to dictate their world view on wider society.

I want to be able to have my dream.  There won't be kids.  I don't want to live in an executive home.  But there will be dogs, a house full of joy, and the man I love.  Moreover, I desperately want something for gay teens going through what I did back then.  This is to know that they are equal members of society and that what they face in life is not making the best of a bad thing, but the very real possibility of equal treatment, dignity, affirmation and respect.  Marriage equality quite simply means all those things for me.









Harpa

Another self portrait taken at the Harpa concert hall, which I call in this post a "stunning play of space and glass and light, reflecting nicely an aspect of our Icelandic people: seemingly cold, complex and overwhelming from the outside, but truly golden, strong-hearted, warmly intricate and multi-faceted on the inside."


Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Campus

I went to Campus at Sauciehall to collect my new Campus jumper. There were so many colours to choose from. I was deciding between the yellow and red one. In the end, I chose the red one. *at least now I have something to wear for CNY ;p* 

Monday, 15 October 2012