A fantasist who duped The Daily Telegraph into believing he was a senior officer with the Met has been jailed for five years.
Ellis Ward wrote a piece in the Telegraph last year claiming that he was an police inspector during last year’s August riots
The paper is understood to have paid him £600 for his article about the riots, in which he wrote: “I have clocked up around 125 hours, too many of them being pelted by stones, petrol bombs and, in one case, in the chaos of it all, by a 4ft ornamental palm tree.”
The 29-year-old fantasist gained a massive following on Twitter with his postings about life as a Met police inspector on the streets of the capital, with his musings on Twitter followed up by several national newspapers.
But Ward's charade as a police officer was not just restricted to the internet, as he also posed as an Army major who had been injured in Iraq.
With an impressive array of uniforms and identity cards, the serial conman used his aliases to dupe three unsuspecting women out of thousands of pounds.
At Winchester Crown Court, Ward, of Bishop's Cleeve, near Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, was jailed for five years after admitting 18 charges of fraud.
Judge Peter Ralls QC told him: "You engaged yourself in a deception of quite staggering complexity.
"You lived a complete lie. You were in effect creating a fantasy world for yourself."
The judge told Ward he had used false identity cards and uniforms to commit a "serious breach of trust" in defrauding the three women.
Ward was wanted by Gloucestershire Police for fraud in 2009 but was released from a nine-month prison sentence before officers could speak to him and spent the next two and a half years on the run.
He was eventually arrested in February this year as forces including Essex, Wiltshire and Thames Valley helped track him down.
Police found that as well as posing as a police officer, he claimed to be a major in the Royal Military Police, and while living in Ware, Hertfordshire, claimed to be a man called Ethan Winchombe.
He told people that he had been invalided out of the Army after being injured by an IED in Iraq and had also spent time attached to the Serious Organised Crime Agency.
Winchester Crown Court heard Ward befriended one woman over the internet in December 2008 and ran up credit card debts in her name of £30,000 over the subsequent six months.
He also later met two other women over the internet – one a serving police community support officer who later became a Pc – and conned them out of a total of £12,000.
Prosecutor Michael Williams told the court: "The defendant is a professional confidence trickster and over a number of years has portrayed himself as a senior police officer and an Army major injured in Iraq to gain the trust of, and defraud, women.
"There was no limit to the lies he was prepared to tell in order to get his hands on money."
Nikki Haywood, district crown prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service Wessex, said: "Ellis Ward is a convicted professional conman and the true extent of his deception may never be fully known.
"One of his biggest lies was claiming that he was a Metropolitan Police inspector involved in the London disorders last August, and he set up a Twitter page, which attracted 3,000 followers in this persona.
"He also gave interviews of his purported involvement in the disorders on television and to national papers, one of which paid Ward for his stories.
"Like any good conman, he carefully prepared his stories, making sure that they were credible to his victims.
"To one he said that he was an acting inspector for the Metropolitan Police counter terrorism branch, which he had to leave because he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder."