London Colney mum faces prison after conning telecom entrepreneur

Claire Liddle (formerly Duke) was photographed leaving Stafford Crown Court on April 15 2014. Photo

Claire Liddle (formerly Duke) was photographed leaving Stafford Crown Court on April 15 2014. Photo by Peter Summers/Newsteam - Credit: Peter Summers / Newsteam

A phoney lifestyle guru previously spared jail for conning thousands out of Premier League footballers is behind bars for stealing nearly £23,000 from a telecommunications entrepreneur.

Claire Liddle (formerly Duke) photographed leaving Cannock Magistrates' Court back in 2013© Newsteam

Claire Liddle (formerly Duke) photographed leaving Cannock Magistrates' Court back in 2013© Newsteam / SWNS Group - Credit: Newsteam

Claire Liddle, 40, of Cherry Tree Avenue in London Colney, admitted taking £22,897.60 from Yoganathan Ratheessan, the entrepreneur behind the telecommunications giant Lebara, at the Old Bailey last Thursday (11).

Sri Lankan-born Mr Ratheessan, 40, is now worth an estimated £250 million.

Liddle - formerly Claire Duke - pleaded guilty to stealing from her former boss by using his personal bank details online to purchase several items including a holiday as well as to buy items from Amazon, and to pay off council debts.

She worked as a personal assistant for the telecoms company, based in the City of London, on a three-month contract between December 2014 and February 2015. During this time she had access to the personal bank card of her boss including the online security code and card details. Suspicions were raised when the victim received an invoice letter with the delivery name and address of Liddle’s husband. An investigation was launched by the company and further checks were made on the bank account where it was suspected that Liddle had carried out numerous transactions between April 13 and June 24 2015, totalling £22,897.60.

Bank enquiries revealed that three transactions were used to clear a council tax debt and the IP address used was traced to the St Albans area.

On December 15 last year, the former personal assistant was charged with four counts of fraud by false representation and one count of theft.

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Liddle wept in the dock as she was remanded into custody ahead of sentencing on April 15, pleading that there was no-one to take care of her 15-year-old son.

Bernard Eaton, for Liddle, asked for her to be assessed by a psychiatrist, stating her doctor believes she may suffer from bipolar disorder. But, remanding her into custody, Judge Anuja Dhir said: “I am concerned that you have committed offences while on bail, and you committed this offence while subject to a suspended sentence.

“I am concerned that if I grant you bail you will commit further offences.”

The judge told her a custodial sentence was inevitable.

In 2014, Liddle walked free from court after pocketing £82,561 from six different clients of her firm Solutions Lifestyle.

Her victims included Stoke City Striker Peter Odemwingie and Norwich City’s Andre Wisdom, who had used Solutions Lifestyle to organise their holidays.

She was handed a two-year suspended sentence and ordered to complete 150 hours of unpaid work after admitting six counts of theft at Stafford Crown Court.

Liddle scammed Mr Odemwingie out of £15,000 using the bank details he had given her to organise his honeymoon to Miami.

She also stole £6,600 from Mr Wisdom intended to pay for a holiday to Jamaica.

Liddle then paid for Mr Wisdom’s holiday using Mr Odemwingie’s credit card.

Former West Brom and Celtic boss Tony Mowbray was also stung, losing £30,000 when he paid Liddle to organise him a family holiday to Dubai.

Liddle is due back in court on February 22 for an application for bail.

Commenting after her appearance at the Old Bailey, Detective Constable Yagmur Koz from the City of London Police said: “She abused the trust which was once given to her, and stole money without thinking twice of how this would affect the victim or about the consequences she herself would face.”

She said that despite Liddle “no longer working for the telecoms company, she continued to use the personal bank details of her former boss in order to purchase items for her own selfish gain”.