- Published on Thursday, 19 December 2013 16:30
A beggar who claimed to be homeless while living off benefits in a £1,000-a-month flat in a wealthy suburb has been convicted of fraud.
With his faithful dog by his side, Christopher Turner, 51, was a fixture outside a branch of the HSBC bank for five years.
He used a selection of scrappy, handwritten cardboard signs, some illustrated with a crucifix or a star of David, bearing sympathy-inducing pleas such as: ‘Homeless – could you please help – I would be very grateful - thank you, God bless’.
But in reality, the donations he received of up to £80 a day only went to supplement a string of benefits, including housing assistance.
Locals said Turner considered masquerading as a homeless beggar to be his ‘9-5 job’.
He would then go home to his flat one mile away in a leafy road in upmarket Surbiton, South West London, where rents cost around £1,000 a month for a similar-sized home.
He was arrested in October and charged with begging and fraud, which he admitted at Wimbledon Magistrates’ Court.
Sergeant Dave Williams, from Kingston police, said: ‘This man has a home. He receives housing and other financial assistance to support his living.
‘There are genuine homeless people sleeping rough.’
Residents took to the online forum Surbition.com to applaud Turner’s conviction.
One wrote: ‘The most hilarious incident I have seen was when he was having an argument with what appeared to be a girlfriend when he said, “You can stop complaining, I am the one who has to go out to work all day!”.’
Another said: ‘This guy has a flat in Surb and is definitely not homeless! A lady I know offered to re-home the dog but he refused as uses it to beg. He def has money. Feel sorry for the dog.
‘He probably makes more money than some of the idiots who donate to him, but that doesn’t stop them doing it. It never fails to surprise me how many people give money to people like this.’
A third local wrote: ‘He’s got a cozy flat, a girlfriend and lives on benefits which he tops up with about £80 he makes every day doing his 9-5 outside the bank with his begging bowl. It’s about time he was rumbled.’
Even the police commented on social media, with Kingston police tweeting: ‘Chris Turner convicted of begging & fraud. Regularly begs with signs saying he’s homeless when he’s not!’
But residents appear to have known for years he was a fake.
He was outed as a fraud three years ago on Surbiton.com, after he was caught stashing his begging signs before heading off home.
One user wrote: ‘The lowlife who sits out side HSBC is NOT homeless.
‘He begs for money and then proceeds to the Londis shop to buy super strength beer (often shouting and swearing). He even borrows the dog from his female sidekick to get extra sympathy.
’Turner must pay £113 in fines and costs, which will be deducted from his benefits, after pleading guilty to begging and fraud.