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Senior police officer on trial accused of mortgage fraud gives evidence


manchestereveningnews.co.uk | January 19, 2015

By Lee Swettenham

A senior police officer is on trial accused of mortgage fraud.

Chief Inspector John Buttress, 48, considered one of GMP’s high-flyers, was arrested at the force’s HQ in March 2013.

The officer is on trial at Liverpool Crown Court accused of mortgage fraud.

The prosecution allege the officer obtained a mortgage for his home in North Wales without informing his lender that he was letting out the property to holiday-makers.

Mr Buttress denies one count of fraud namely that he dishonestly and intending to make a gain for himself failed to disclose to his mortgage provider that a farmhouse in North Wales was being used for commercial purposes.

Reporter John Scheerhout is sending live updates from the court.

11.15 am

CI Buttress takes to the stand.

He is asked by his barrister Rick Holland what he thought of the charge he faced, that he dishonestly intended to make a gain for himself by failing to inform his mortgage provider that Overton Vale Farm was being used as a holiday let.

The officer had lived at the farm in Wrexham, part of which had been developed for holiday rentals, the jurors have previously heard.

He replied: "I deny. I absolutely deny the allegations. It's ridiculous. I deny it."

11.17 am

He said the suggestion he had deliberately failed to disclose that the farm was being used for holiday lets to get a better interest rate was 'plainly ridiculous'.

He added: "If I had wanted a more competitive rate of interest I would have shopped around. I was in the middle of a divorce.

"I simply wanted to get my house in my name and the simplest way to do that was to stay with the same lender and remove my then estranged wife's name from the mortgage. It seemed the easiest and quickest way to do that."

11.24 am

Asked whether he and his then wife had been dishonest when they had completed the original mortgage application form in 2007, CI Buttress said: "Absolutely not. There was no reason to be."

He said they had wanted 'relatively small' mortgage compared to the value of the farm property they were buying. The officer also emphatically denied dishonesty when he had later transferred the property into his sole name.

CI Buttress told the jury: "Again, absolutely not. For the same reason. Then I was even borrowing a lesser amount. It was a lot less than we had originally borrowed. Again, the value of the house was significantly more than the loan."

11.27 am

The jurors have previously heard that CI Buttress, when he and his wife separated, applied for a remortgage of £135,000 plus an extra £50,000 to improve the property.

The officer denied that he had been dishonest with his lender when applying for the £50,000 extra loan.

"In fact, I had asked for that to be part of the same loan and they wanted it to be a separate application, because I think they wanted two fees for them," he told the jury.

11.31 am

The father of three said he accepted there was a 'sub-contractual breach' with his lender.

He told the jury: "I accept that there was a sub-contractual breach."

He added: "Under their take from what I have seen explained (in court) last week, they reckon that there's a sub-contractual breach. I can see their line of argument but I disagree."

11.35 am

Earlier in the trial, the jurors were told by staff at Intelligent Finance, the mortgage provider, that it was against their terms and conditions to use their loans for commercial purposes.

The company, it was said, only deals with private and not business customers. Asked if there had been any dishonesty, CI Buttress said: "There's absolutely no dishonesty and never was there any reason for dishonesty."

11.47 am

The jury is now hearing background information about the defendant.

The senior officer told the juror he went into the merchant navy as a radio officer after his A levels, and served on the Sir Tristram during the first Gulf War.

When he finished at sea he went to university and joined Greater Manchester Police in 1995, the jurors are told.

11.55 am

He married Andrea in 2001 and had two sons by her. He has another son from a previous relationship, the court hears.

After their marriage they jointly purchased Overton Vale Farm in Wrexham, which consisted of a farm house, a converted barn and stables, CI Buttress says.

The property also had a swimming pool and a car port, he says. CI Buttress said the holiday rentals were 'a little sideline' for his wife after she had given birth to their sons.

12.11 pm

Asked by his barrister Rick Holland about a line in his mortgage contract, which says the property concerned mustn't be let out, CI Buttress said: "I take it as 'I move out and they move in', not carrying on having holiday-makers coming in who have no rights over the property and if they cause any problems you ask them to leave."

He added: "Is it letting or is it having holiday-makers to stay? It's having holiday-makers to stay."

12.17 pm

When asked about a ban by Intelligent Finance on using a loan for commercial purposes, the officer insisted neither he nor his wife had acted dishonestly.

He said: "We weren't buying to let. I wouldn't even define it as letting. It certainly wasn't something needed to buy the property which is how I would define a buy to let mortgage.

"The money 'the business' generated is tiny."

He said his accountant had concluded he had made a loss on the holiday-makers and added there was 'no way you can service a near half-a-million pound property' with a loan of the size he was given.

1.04 pm

Emotions are running high at Liverpool Crown Court, where CI Buttress breaks down on the witness stand as he tells the jurors how he discovered that a page from a witness statement had been removed.

The jurors are told he found that a page from the statement of Michelle Gibson, of Intelligence Finance, which dealt with where the defendant lived, had been removed.

Crying, CI Buttress tells the court: "I apologise but I'm a bit emotional."

He says he feels he has been 'persecuted'.

1.08 pm

Moments earlier, the officer spoke angrily about how the investigation into him had been conducted, telling the jury he was 'originally locked up' for allegedly failing to live at Overton Vale Farm.

The court hears officers are required to seek formal approval for their place of residence and keep bosses informed of any changes. CI Buttress says '30 cops and helicopters' were involved in the raid at Overton Vale Farm and the search team trying to find out whether he lived there as required established that 'Oops, he does'.

The jurors have previously heard that the farm was his main residence but that he sometimes stayed in Manchester for work during the week.

1.11 pm

The jury has been sent out for lunch.

3.22 pm

CI Buttress told the jurors that when he was stationed in Bolton his boss, Superintendent Steve Nibloe, 'disliked me from day one' and that he was concerned about his 'bullying' towards other officers.

Their relationship 'effectively broke down', said Mr Buttress.

CI Buttress told the court how he was summoned to an interview at the Professional Standards Branch of GMP.

"I was a bit naive and I didn't think, excuse the expression, that my employer would stitch me up," he said, telling the jurors he had not taken anyone along with him to represent him.

At the interview he was told intelligence had been submitted stating 'there were concerns about insider share dealing', the jurors hear.

The court hears Mr Buttress, who had been in charge of a project to modernise how stop and search powers were used by the force, was asked if he had shares in Sepura, a company he had been dealing with as a potential contractor for a new way of dealing with the process.

"I have never owned shares in any company in my life," CI Buttress told the jury.

3.43 pm

Asked where he thought the accusation had come from, he said: "I knew exactly where it had come from. I told the officers interviewing me I know exactly where it came out."

During the meeting his inquisitors would not reveal the source of the intelligence, the jurors are told.

Mr Buttress says he later established through an enquiry he made with the Independent Police Complaints Commission that the intelligence which accused him of insider share dealing had come from Supt Nibloe.

The defendant said he had visited the HQ of Sepura as part of his stop and search project and 'met several senior people' before leaving with some company literature.

CI Buttress told the court he told a PC and Supt Nibloe about the meeting.

Asked if he had reassured the officers questioning him about alleged insider dealing, the officer said: "Yes. I was furious and told them that. I'm absolutely furious this has happened and I told them I know where it's come from."

3.50 pm

Continuing to be questioned by his barrister Rick Holland, the senior officer told the court: "Why would I want to be share dealing. I have 70-odd thousand pounds in a current account. I've got a mortgage, a small mortgage in relation to the value of the house. I don't do share dealing. I have no inclination to do share dealing and no need to do it. I told them that voluntarily."

The court heard Mr Buttress promised to 'raise merry Hell' about the allegation against him although he said he believed it was now an end to the matter.

The defendant said he was 'extremely surprised' to learn that an investigation into his financial affairs was launched.

After the meeting at the Professional Standards Branch Mr Buttress told the court his boss Supt Nibloe 'looked very surprised to see me' back at work.

4.01 pm

Mr Buttress told the court he lodged a 13-page 'grievance' about the matter with the chief superintendent of the Bolton division and also an employment tribunal case.

He told the jury he was arrested at the force HQ in Newton Heath, adding that he had learned more than 30 police officers had been dispatched to six different locations including the Wrexham farm property.

The farmhouse had been 'smashed up' during the police search, said Mr Buttress, who also told the court he believed his phones had been 'hacked'.

4.03 pm

Mr Buttress has completed his evidence in chief and the jurors have been sent home for the day.

The trial resumes in the morning when Mr Buttress is due to be cross-examined by Gerald Baxter, for the Crown.


Back to January 2015 Archive

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