A man who pocketed £450 after conning friends into thinking his daughter had died of cancer has been convicted of fraud, thanks to free weekly Hertfordshire paper The Comet.
Journalists from the title smelled a rat when a one-paragraph story was submitted to the newsdesk from Arlesley Town football club, revealing a collection had been held for Simon Carmichael, 26, following the death of his three-year-old daughter from cancer.
News editor John Adams said: “It just seemed odd that this man had suddenly announced that his daughter had died.
“On Christmas Eve he sent a text message to the chairman of the club, saying he’d not be able to make it for training because his daughter had died – they did this collection and presented it to him on Boxing Day.
“We thought a young girl dying of cancer was something we would have heard about before.”
Reporter Bob Bryant, a journalist with 40 years experience, was given the job of investigating.
After contacting other members of the football club he made contact with Carmichael’s ex-girlfriend, who gave an exclusive interview, describing her former lover as “vile and evil”.
Although Carmichael had yet to be charged then, The Comet decided to lead with the story, which was widely followed up in the national press.
A prosecution followed The Comet’s story and the Archant paper had another front page last week when Carmichael was sentenced to 120 hours community service, ordered to pay £500 costs and serve a six-month night-time curfew.
Comet editor Darren Isted said: “This was an evil crime to commit.
Carmichael did not know we knew his secret and was shocked when we tracked him down and confronted him.
“This was a case of exposing a great story with good old-fashioned journalism and the ex-girlfriend was very happy to talk to us.
“She knew what he had done and felt he should be exposed,” added Isted
By Dominic Ponsford