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Bigamist swindled bride out of £50,000

Maureen Walder, 54, married John Lewis, 48, in a lavish ceremony in Sri Lanka in October 2007, eight months before his divorce from his fourth wife was finalised.

The pair had begun their romance in April 2006 after Lewis “melted the heart” of Miss Walder, who had been single for almost 20 years.

He had led her to believe he was a “true survivor” by pretending he had been a former paratrooper in the Falklands and was shot in the leg after being forced to eject from his plane. He also claimed to have been a Lord’s chauffeur.

He later whisked her off to a Paris restaurant on Boxing Day 2006, knelt down on one knee and proposed to her.

However months later, Miss Walder, discovered the man she had agreed to marry was not only a bigamist, but also a fraudster and a fantasist.

At Taunton Crown Court on Friday, Lewis was jailed for 15 months after pleading guilty to bigamy and three offences of fraud.

Lewis swore an affidavit that he was free to marry before their ceremony in Sri Lanka, for which he hired elephants and dancers, the court heard.

The newly married couple later moved to Italy to take a house sitting job for a wealthy British couple. But when Miss Walder returned to her flat in Minehead, Somerset, she discovered a pile of letters from debt collection agencies.

A subsequent investigation found Lewis had twice forged her signature to obtain £36,000 in loan payouts. The court also heard the couple had applied for a £70,000 mortgage, but Lewis actually received £89,000, having lied to his wife.

The court was told Lewis suffered from Munchausen’s syndrome, a psychological condition that can lead to compulsive lying.

Before sentence was passed on Lewis, Miss Walder said: “This whole period of my life has been horrendous. I never want to see or hear from him again.

“Looking back it seems so far-fetched but I trusted him completely. I hope my story will save some other poor woman from being duped. All I wanted was a bit of romance but my hopes and dreams have come crashing down around me. I don’t think I’ll ever trust a man again.”

She added: “My lavish life had been a lie. I had been paying for it without even realising. I had never been in debt before and he had taken me for a mug, someone who was weak, and could be manipulated.”

Miss Walder said she discovered her husband was a bigamist, because she was curious about why he had changed his surname. “I looked online and found out that he hadn’t divorced his wife. It was the final nail in the coffin.

“Not only had I been defrauded, but I had naively married a bigamist. I reported him to police and told them everything I knew.”