THE PHONEY VISCOUNT STRIKES AGAIN; He's Seduced a Trail of Wealthy Women and Left Them Furious and Impoverished. Now, Thickening at the Waist and Bald, Guiy De Montfort Has Done It Again
Bracchi, Paul, Daily Mail (London)
Byline: PAUL BRACCHI
AMONG the many treasured possessions at Guiy de Montfort's Sussex cottage is a framed letter. It begins 'My dearest Guiy' - and goes on to thank him for his participation in a charity event.
The typewritten note is signed Bill Clinton (as in the former President).
Elsewhere, there is a copy of his best-selling spy novel, a glossy brochure about his new media marketing company - highlighting his links with major stars - and copious documentation and photographs about other aspects of his rich and colourful life.
His father, as he is fond of pointing out, was a French nobleman; his mother a heroine of the Resistance. De Montfort himself - he sometimes uses the title Vicomte - speaks convincingly of his many adventures in the Foreign Legion, the British secret service, and hunting big cats.
True, his favourite tales are not always quite consistent. Was the wife, whom he claimed had been brutally murdered abroad, an Ethiopian princess or an East European aristocrat? Was it a tiger or a lion that had mauled him within an inch of his life (curiously, leaving no visible scars)?
If Jennifer Tootal, the woman he is romancing, is at all suspicious, she certainly isn't showing it. But then her engaging, pipe-smoking companion has established himself as a pillar of the community; becoming an enthusiastic member of the church after attending Bible classes for 'lapsed Christians' and throwing himself into the social life of the parish.
Mrs Tootal, 51, by way of introduction, is recently divorced. More to the point, she is very rich (she emerged from her marriage to a high-ranking retired serviceman with a six-figure settlement).
She is now about to move into de Montfort's (rented) whitewashed cottage in the village of Stonegate. There is even talk of marriage.
She wants to sell her [pound]300,000 detached home in nearby Wadhurst, where she lives with her two teenage sons, and, tellingly, she also cashed in an insurance policy - believed to be in the region of [pound]15,000 - shortly after meeting her boyfriend barely eight months ago.
But, as you have probably guessed, almost everything about Vicomte Guiy de Montfort - or plain Mr Graham Leaver, from Dartford, Kent, the son of a Royal Artillery NCO - to give him his real name and family lineage, is fake.
Nevertheless, his nefarious past is almost as astonishing as the elaborate lies which are his stock in trade. His record of deceit stretches back nearly two decades and spans two continents.
HIS VICTIMS are invariably the same: single, sometimes emotionally vulnerable, moneyed women of a certain age and social standing. Women, to be precise, just like Jennifer Tootal.
Most have been left nursing broken hearts and bank balances.
'Jennifer is an intelligent woman but she is completely besotted with Guiy,' says one concerned friend.
'She says that when she sells her house a substantial proportion of the equity will be put aside to buy her two sons, who are aged 17 and 18, a flat of their own. But everyone is extremely worried that the boys could end up with nothing.' But why would an intelligent woman - Mrs Tootal is a trained nurse - risk her family's future on a man she only recently met, to whom she has already, by all accounts, advanced at least [pound]15,000, and whose questionable motives she has now been appraised of?
She is the only one who can answer that; but she is not the first woman - nor perhaps will she be the last - to have her head turned by Guiy de Montfort.
In another age he would be called a 'cad' and a 'bounder'; the kind of velvet-tongued scoundrel immortalised on film by the late Terry-Thomas.
Indeed, like the actor, he once sported a pencil moustache.
Little is known of his formative years, except that he was the son of Bombardier Herbert Leaver and his wife Elsie, who died in 1988. She told neighbours of a 'son' she had not seen for 40 years, and who had been placed in care after she had a nervous breakdown.
The world, or at least the gossip columns, first became aware of Guiy de Montfort in the Eighties when he managed to inveigle himself into London society. He used a dinner for 180 at Claridges - still one of his favourite haunts - to trumpet a supposed film deal and novel, a spy thriller called All The Queen's Men.
To this day, de Montfort insists the book - featuring lines such as 'by Allah's blood and Lenin's sacred tomb, it was not going to work' - was an instant hit.
However, the evidence suggests the reverse: it was thinly reviewed, sold very poorly, and within a year was out of print.
Nevertheless, he still has a copy, which he produces to anyone he is trying to impress.
It was not long afterwards that tales of his proposals of marriage began to emerge. In 1984, for example, he told his bemused circle that he was engaged to an heiress.
That came as something of a surprise to another Swedish woman of means, Marguerite Wiklund, who had advanced him [pound]35,000 in the apparent expectation that a whirlwind romance would lead them to the altar.
BY NOW, he was running a 'film promotion' company.
The firm finally went under in a shower of bouncing cheques - most made out to fashionable restaurants and five-star hotels - a collapse that was to land him in the Old Bailey in 1987 when he was jailed for three years for fraud.
Six months into his sentence, he brazenly walked out of Leyhill open prison in Gloucestershire - dressed as a prison officer - and escaped to Ireland.
During his brief sojourn there he was cornered by a reporter and forced to clamber out of the window of a pub lavatory and bolt across a potato field.
Months after this almost farcical episode he surfaced again, this time in the United States, where he was to spend much of the next decade systematically fleecing wealthy women.
Los Angeles deputy district attorney David Wells investigated him at the time. Contacted by the Daily Mail yesterday, he said: 'Don't tell me, you are ringing about Guiy de Montfort. How did I guess?' He adds: 'He [de Montfort] ripped off Californian women left, right and centre. He must have made $2 million ([pound]1.3 million) in all, but proved very hard to prosecute because most of the women were too embarrassed.' Among his many victims was Marian Paronyan, whom he met after becoming regular customer at her Phoenix coffee shop.
Inevitably, she was taken in by his tales of derring-do in the French Foreign Legion, military action in Africa and spying missions for the British Government.
Had he ever got time to get married? Yes, he told her tearfully, there had once been a wife; he had married a beautiful Ethiopian princess and had raised a son - only to see them both butchered by African guerillas.
Suffice to say that Mrs Paronyan, now 44, and de Montfort became lovers and she ended up investing many thousands of dollars in his 'new book and films projects'.
Afterwards, he disappeared.
Speaking from Phoenix, where she still lives, she says: 'I just laugh now.
What else can you do.' Bizarrely, she told how de Montfort still writes to her, promising to repay the money he owes. 'This Christmas I got the usual card, postmarked Sussex,' she says.
FOR A long time I really believed him. He once gave me the name and address of his lawyer in Britain, saying he was handling his business affairs. I wrote to the lawyer and, sure enough, a letter on beautifully headed notepaper came back saying he was looking into everything.
'That was the last I heard anything legally. I now accept that my money is lost. But Guiy has stayed in touch. I don't feel any bitterness any more. You just have to put it down to experience.' Told he's up to his old tricks again, she adds: 'I'm not surprised. He simply can't help it. He is a conman through and through.' In another part of Phoenix, more evidence of de Montfort's 'career' comes from Jeanne Danowski - his ex-wife. She recalls: 'He walked into my life when my sister was dying of cancer, and he could not have been sweeter and more supportive.
'I thought I had met the man of my dreams. He wanted to get married right away, I wanted to wait a while, but he talked me round.' The couple were married in 1995.
Seven weeks later, the new Mrs de Montfort petitioned for a dissolution on grounds of 'false representation of love and affection'. A judge ruled in her favour.
Mrs Danowski takes up the story: 'It became clear from the moment we married that he was just using me to gain legal status in America.
He hardly bothered to hide the fact. Within days of our marriage he was talking to an immigration lawyer about his paperwork.
'Then my phone started to ring, with other women looking for him and demanding their money back.
Cheques were bouncing all over the place, and by then he also had his hands on my credit cards.
'When I confronted him, he hit me. He was upset and extremely apologetic afterwards but, as far as I was concerned, that was it. By then, it appeared he had several other women. He can't keep his hands off women.
'It's not a sexual thing. He just wants their money and the thrill he gets from ripping them off. I can't remember how much he took me for - certainly thousands of dollars.' The list of his victims includes an elegant accountant from Malibu, a judge's daughter from Texas and another woman from Phoenix.
De Montfort was eventually arrested and deported to Britain in the late-Nineties, where he served the remainder of his prison sentence.
Last year he surfaced in Sussex, living in a rented flat over a teashop in Sedlescombe.
Soon, he was 'moving in' on yet another potential victim.
Anthea Schofield, 50, an elegant and attractive divorcee and mother of four, met de Montfort through her business running a hotel staff recruiting agency.
It soon became clear, however, that it wasn't just business the 'Vicomte' had on his mind. After telling her half a dozen times how beautiful she was, he took her hand, turned to a man on a nearby table and said: 'Isn't she just lovely.' Two months after their first meeting, he had successfully persuaded her to marry him.
Eventually, however, a friend tipped her off about his 'past' and she broke off the relationship.
'By then, I was already very suspicious because he wanted to know all about my finances,' she says. 'Friends ask me how I can laugh at being taken in by Guiy, but I said you have to see the funny side of it. I can laugh now because I am not involved with him.' SHE ADDS: 'I will always remember seeing Guiy, a couple of weeks after I'd broken off with him, walking down the street back to his car, eating fish and chips out of paper. He was no more a viscount than I was the Queen of Sheba.' The latest - but certainly not the last - chapter in the life and times of 'Vicomte' Guiy de Montfort came to light last week when it was revealed he had won the affection of wealthy divorcee Mrs Tootal.
They are understood to have met last July; she had come out of her divorce; he was introducing himself to village life and promoting his 'business'.
Since then, they have become almost inseparable.
One villager says: 'Jennifer is a lovely, sweet girl but she does seem a bit naive. There are concerns de Montfort is telling her exactly what she wants to hear, boosting her confidence and ego.' Indeed, Mrs Tootal is the 'director of administration' in the glossy package of promotional material for his new venture supposedly offering advice to creative artists.
The registered office of the firm, The Write Track, is given as Railway House at Stonegate, which he boasts has 'plenty of parking space'.
He omits to mention that the 'suite of offices' is a rented flat next to the main London to Hastings line, and parking will cost clients [pound]2a-day - in the large station car park.
But de Montfort remains undeterred. On Sunday, no doubt, he will be at morning service at the church in the village. Mrs Tootal will almost certainly be by his side.
Perhaps this time he really does mean what he says, that he loves her, that he is not interested in her money, and that he wants to spend the rest of his life with her. Yes, and pigs might fly.…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: THE PHONEY VISCOUNT STRIKES AGAIN; He's Seduced a Trail of Wealthy Women and Left Them Furious and Impoverished. Now, Thickening at the Waist and Bald, Guiy De Montfort Has Done It Again. Contributors: Bracchi, Paul - Author. Newspaper title: Daily Mail (London). Publication date: May 1, 2001. Page number: Not available. © 2007 Daily Mail. COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group.
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