Pupil spots ‘fraud fugitive’ teaching in Cornish school

The Times is reporting that a fugitive Briton wanted over a £1.5 million fraud in South Africa has been found working as a teacher in the Cornwall after police were tipped off by a pupil…

Mike Hale, 63, vanished from Pietermaritzburg four years ago after 20 million rand went missing from his insurance firm. The authorities there issued a search warrant and contacted Interpol in an attempt to find him. Mr Hale, a former captain of the Great Britain water polo team, arrived back in Britain and passed background checks to become a supply teacher in Cornwall.

He went undetected for years but was exposed when a pupil read about the broker’s case on Facebook and recognised him. The 13-year-old girl posted details of her detective work online, with a picture she had taken of Mr Hale — and soon more students came forward to confirm the sighting.

Among them was Daniel Templeton, a former Falmouth School student, who was taught PE by Mr Hale 18 months ago. He wrote: “I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s really him’. I just find it ridiculous that somebody can become a teacher after that. Surely he must have gone through the system?”

Police in South Africa are now waiting to extradite Mr Hale, who is no longer working as a teacher after Penryn College and Falmouth School informed the police.

The alleged conman left South Africa in 2009 after the money went missing from the accounts of his MJCM Insurance Brokers in Pietermaritzburg. He is accused of 20 cases of fraud affecting 200 people, including his wife of 13 years and his brother-in-law. An international hunt for him was started and details were posted on Facebook…

Mr Hale had worked at colleges and schools across Cornwall. A statement from Cornwall College said: “He registered in September 2009, having completed all necessary statutory checks as a qualified teacher, including professional references. In line with the current guidance and our normal operating policy, all checks were updated November 2012 — all were clear.”

A statement from Penryn College said: “As soon as Penryn College and Falmouth School were alerted of the allegations, both immediately informed the police and the supply agency of the allegations made about him.”

…He is now living in a converted farmstead and has pigs and sheep in sheds on the land. He denies any wrongdoing and says that he fled South Africa because of stress. He said: “My attorneys are dealing with it. There were other people over there who were in the wrong. I’m not in the wrong. I’m very upset about it. It’s a very difficult situation. I left because everything failed and I was stressed out.”

More at:  Pupil spots ‘fraud fugitive’ teaching in Cornish school (subscription required)

Extraordinary story but is it a bit worrying that the background checks did not pick up that an applicant was the subject of an international police hunt? Please tell us what you think in the comments or on twitter… 

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