John Monckton: Targeted
By Andrew Alderson, Charlotte McDonald-Gibson and Nina Goswami
Lists of the wealthiest people in Britain published by national newspapers are providing criminals with an “intelligence database” for targeting multi-millionaire businessmen, police believe.
Scotland Yard has received a complaint from a businessman picked out by a convicted killer after his name appeared in a newspaper’s annual list of the nation’s 1,000 wealthiest people.
The man, who has children and several million-pound homes but asked not to be identified, went to the police after he became alarmed by evidence at the Old Bailey trial of Damien Hanson, 24, who was accused of murdering the financier John Monckton at his home in Chelsea.
The court was told how Hanson had a copy of The Sunday Times Rich List and the Mail on Sunday’s Rich Report, and other newspaper clippings on several top businessmen, they included the Duke of Westminster, the property owner; Bernie Ecclestone, the boss of Formula 1 racing; Peter Wood, the chairman of Ensure insurance; and Paul Tucker, the executive director of the Bank of England.
Hanson’s dossier – found at his bail hostel in south London – showed he had “an obsession with the rich”. He had even planned crimes while he was in prison, using the internet to find information on potential victims.
The court heard that Hanson began following affluent women on shopping trips in Chelsea and Fulham. It is believed he spotted Mrs Monckton at the Via Venise shoe shop in the King’s Road. A business card from the shop was found in his hostel room.
The jury was also told that he had scrawled down the number plate of a wealthy woman who regularly drove to London in her Mercedes to visit her daughters. The woman was unaware that she was now a target.
Last night, senior Scotland Yard officers said they shared the concerns of celebrities and businessmen that rich lists and other articles giving personal details encouraged criminals to target people.
“It doesn’t make any sense to give this sort of detailed information about wealthy people which could be used by those with illegal intentions,” said one officer. “It gives an intelligence database for anyone looking for rich pickings.”
The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that concerns over details published by newspapers have been raised with police by the businessman, who appears in the top 500 of The Sunday Times Rich List and is worth more than £100 million.
“The whole thing has been pretty alarming,” a spokesman for the businessman said of the evidence at the Old Bailey. “This is a very distressing thing for him. He didn’t have a choice [about being on the rich list].”
It is understood that the details given in the lists and business profiles that particularly upset the businessman include the exact road in which people live, the restaurants they use and points such as where someone goes for an early-morning swim.
The brutality of the murder of Mr Monckton, 49, a brilliant banker and devoted family man, shocked the nation. Hanson and his accomplice for the robbery, Elliot White, also 24, tricked their way into the family’s home before Hanson produced a knife and stabbed Mr Monckton eight times. He was convicted on Thursday of murdering Mr Monckton. Hanson was also found guilty of attempting to kill Mr Monckton’s wife, Homeyra, 46, who was stabbed twice and left near to death. The robbers fled with jewels worth nearly £4,500.
White, a childhood friend of Hanson’s, admitted robbery. On Friday, the jury found him not guilty of the murder of Mr Monckton, but guilty of his manslaughter. The jury will return to consider a further charge against White of attempting to murder Mrs Monckton.
Serious concerns have now been raised over why Hanson, a violent serial criminal since the age of 14, should have been released six years early by the parole board from a 12-year sentence for a previous attempted murder.
His early release came despite the fact that he had been judged to pose a 91 percent risk of violent re-offending in a particular assessment test by the Prison Service. However, the assessment panel from the Parole Board, made up of three volunteers, came to the opposite conclusion.
As soon as the trial ends, Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, is expected to order an inquiry into why Hanson was released early and subjected to the minimal supervision.
Now some senior officers, along with wealthy businesspeople and celebrities, hope there will be a public debate too on whether there should be any mandatory or self-imposed restrictions on information in rich lists.
Most accept that this is a delicate area, mainly as the UK has no specific privacy laws and the country values a press uninhibited by the restrictions in many other countries.
This is, however, not the first time that violent criminals have used published information to target victims. A similar gang used Who’s Who, which provides a potted biography of Britain’s most influential people, to target potential victims in Edinburgh’s affluent suburbs. Those in Who’s Who, however, supply their own information.
Four men known as the Rolex gang went on a three-week crime spree targeting London’s wealthy suburbs. Two years later Bernie Ecclestone’s wife, Slavica, was robbed of her Rolex watch and a £60,000 ring when she was mugged outside her London home.
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