Andrew John Harper – Conman

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Woman’s Weekly – January 2011

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FROM LEFT: Rochelle (That’s me), Diana and Rebecca.

These three women were duped by a charismatic con man, but fought back by warning other women on the web. Now he’s under arrest, reports Jordan Baker.
(Woman’s Weekly had to change Andrew’s name for legal reasons)

It was the eyes that hooked Diana Mors. His charm and generosity were appealing, too, but she loved his George Clooney gaze – a gaze that made her feel like the only woman in the world. Tom* was funny, handsome and smart, almost too good to be true. But, she reasoned, good things eventually come to those who deserve them.

It was in late 2008, as they got to know each other through emails, that Tom told her of his loneliness after his fiancée died in a car accident. He mentioned only in passing the fortune that alloweé him to take extravagant holidays, wander the country and go back to university. He was new to Brisbane and would be staying a little while, he told her. He had a suggestion: could he rent a room at her house rather than stay at a lonely hotel?

He moved in, romance blossomed, and Tom showed his gratitude by taking her shopping for designer clothes and a car. They had have extravagant dinners. But Tom never paid for the shopping sprees on the spot, and the purchases were never delivered. When they dined out, she would pay and he’d add it to the money his personal assistant was transferring to her account.

When, after six weeks, he owed her about $2000, Diana told Tom to leave and sort his finances out. “You know where I am once you’ve worked things out,” she told him. He packed his bags and disappeared. She later found out he moved straight in with Rebecca, a woman he met online using Diana’s internet connection.

While living at Diana’s house, Tom had dazzled smart, savvy Rebecca Bell, 33. He shared many of her interests, and she was moved by the tragic story of his fiancée who died in a car accident. “He had a lot of confidence and I think that enticed me,” Rebecca says. “You feel like you haven’t had a connection with someone like that in a long time.”

He was wealthy, he told her, but expensive hotels were lonely. He was staying with a friend, but would rather rent a room off Rebecca. She invited him into her home and romance blossomed. He valued her opinion and consulted her about his business dealings. She saw emails and texts from his associates, which seemed to back up his tales. He took her shopping for expensive gifts, although there was always a reason why he could not pay on the spot.

“Each time I’d try to ask him questions, he’d produce a document or email, or turn it around on me, saying how could I not trust him?” she tells The Weekly. As Rebecca waited to move into a house he said he had bought for her, Tom flew to Adelaide to give a speech on carbon credits. “I knew he was leaving,” she says. “I was relieved. And then a little light bulb went off in my head.”

Rebecca dug out the phone number of the “friend” he’d mentioned, a woman called Diana, and sent her a text message. It read: “I’ve been with Tom. I think he’s a con man.” Diana called her immediately. “Honey,” she said, “you don’t know the half of it.”

Using information they remembered from conversations with Tom, they tracked down one of his victims, who in turn helped them track down others. With painstaking research, they pieced together the past 10 years of his life and contacted 21 women across Australia and the USA, who had been hurt and ripped off by Tom. Diana and Rebecca learned that there were worse cases than theirs; some women were financially ruined. Their quest became two-pronged – to protect other women, and to support those who had fallen victim. They call it a “survivors group”.

Yet on the many occasions they tried to report Tom to police, they got little sympathy. “Police would say there’s no law against lying or moral misconduct,” says Diana. “What gets me is if I walked into David Jones and took thousands of dollars worth of goods, I’d be in prison. But when he walks into someone’s life and rips them off, you get a condescending look and ‘buyer beware, honey’.”

Read more of this story in the January issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly.

You thought…..

You thought you could discard me
like a piece of old rubbish.
You could and you did.

You thought you could crush me
But i am only damaged, not destroyed.

You thought you could fool me,
but you only fooled yourself.

You thought you could isolate me,
but instead, you brought many amazing people into my life.

You thought you could hide, and for a little while you did,
now everything is exposed.

You thought you could hurt me
but that is nothing compared to the pain you are going to feel.

You thought you could break me
but you have only made me stronger.

Shows how much you really know.

The Beach where he said he would love me Forever

“Step onto my beach” he said.
“Your beach?” I asked, in amazement.
“Yes, my beach, I own it. It is all mine but you can share it”
“Why me?” I asked, “Why am I so special?”
“Because I have been alone for a long, long time and there is nobody else like you” he answered, as he took my hand and pulled me roughly onto the sand of his beach.

I looked around for other bathers, but we were totally alone. The waves crashed in the distance, seeming to move ominously closer. I decided to ignore the waves and looked at him instead.

“We don’t need anybody else, it will be just you, and me, forever” he said as he gazed deeply into my eyes, and I chose to believe him.

We walked along the beach, moving further and further away from civilization, closer and closer to the water.

“We don’t need anybody else, it will be just you, and me, forever” he said, as he pulled me into the shallow water.
I felt nervous.
“I am not sure if I can swim with you.”

I wanted to dive into the water with him and swim forever.

“Yes you can” he said, “It will be just you and me forever, I will help you swim, I will protect you,” as he pulled me deeper into the water. I chose to believe him. I ignored the waves and looked at him instead.

His eyes mesmerized me, I forgot about the waves, the water, the missing people on his deserted beach, I chose to focus on him.

Because he chose me.

As he pulled me deeper and deeper into the water, the sand beneath my feet started to undulate. Nothing seemed to be very stable anymore.

“I am sinking!” I cried out.
“No, you are not” he smiled at me, all the while pulling me deeper.
“I’m not? Are you sure?”
“Of course not, this is our beach, why would you sink, it is just you and me forever, I won’t let you sink.”
“The sand is moving!” I felt a knot tighten in my stomach as panic set in.
“No, it’s not. Don’t say that!”
“Are you sure, it feels like it is moving?”
“Of course I am sure, it will be just you and me forever and I will protect you.”

I chose to believe him.

The only other option meant sinking into the sand, or drowning. So I clung to him, as the waves swirled around me, faster and faster, spinning me around and around until my head was muddled and I felt dizzy and ill.

“Help, I really am going to drown!” I screamed out to him.

I felt his hands gripping mine, he was my only salvation from certain death.
“Why would I let you drown, I chose you, remember. I could have had anyone but here I am with you, on our beach, forever.”

He smiled down at me as I floundered in the water, but it was only his mouth that was smiling, his eyes were cold. I gripped his arms, clinging on for dear life, he was the only thing standing between me and certain death.

“Why aren’t you drowning, why aren’t you sinking in the sand…why?” I looked up at him, my hands still gripping his arms, desperate for him to save me. He was not moving, he stood firm and strong.
I felt my head going under the water.

“Don’t worry, I will save you. I love you, remember, it is just you and me, forever.”

I did not notice him smiling.

Water covered my head. I felt his hands wrap around my wrists and for a second I felt safe. Until the weight started pressing on my head. I struggled against it, but the weight kept pressing, pushing me under. For a second my head came out of the water and I realized…….it could not be…it was HIS foot pressing on my head.

I tried to cry out, but I could not talk, every time I opened my mouth it filled with water so I coughed and choked.

He stood above me, staring at me with cruel callousness, as his foot pressed my head deeper and deeper under the water.

I sank into unconsciousness. I wanted to close my eyes and sleep forever. I was drowning, on his beach. The beach where he was going to love me forever.

Just as it felt like the last breath was going to exit my body, the pressure and weight lifted and I shook my head out of the water, gasping for air.

I crawled up the beach, dragging my exhausted, battered body onto the sand. If I could just make it onto the beach, he would be there to save me.

I coughed up water for a long time, lying on the beach shaking, spluttering, crying and afraid. Finally the exhaustion overcame me and I fell asleep.

I woke up on the beach. It was empty.

He was gone.