Hammersmith 'House of Love' Sold by Fraudster

Octogenarian sisters conned out of brothel to the stars

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A fraudster pocketed the cash from the sale of a Hammersmith brothel after the death of two octogenarian sisters who ran it, a court heard.

Peter Burton, 49, stole up to £120,000 from the sale of the "House of Love" in Margravine Gardens, said to have been visited by the rich and famous for decades.

The house was meant to go to the son of Mary Wheeler, a prostitute in her eighties, who entertained famous clients there with her sister Catherine Leadley.

But Burton cared for Ms Wheeler when she became ill and gained power of attorney over her estate. He sold the property for £200,000 after her death.

Southwark crown court heard he had nursed Ms Wheeler and they had a "close mother-son relationship".
Defence barrister Richard Jory said Ms Wheeler lived in accommodation run by the mental health charity Mind and became dependent on Burton, her neighbour in the home, after the death of her sister in September 1997.

"The son had disowned his mother. He had disowned her because she had worked as a prostitute, said Mr Jory. Ms Wheeler, who was incontinent and had mental health problems, died in October 1997 and Burton, who suffered from a personality disorder and manic depression, sold the house in December that year.

He claimed he was acting on the death-bed wishes of Ms Wheeler.
The fraud was uncovered after Ms Wheeler's son died in 2000 and her grandson hired probate specialists to look into his father's affairs.

Burton, of Morden, who has 14 previous convictions for dishonesty, admitted concealing the sale for his own profit but walked free with a two-year community rehabilitation order.

Judge Christopher Elwen said he accepted Burton spent part of the money on refurbishing the Mind accommodation for all the residents there. He also paid for a hip operation for his own mother, the court heard.

He said he would normally sentence someone in Burton's place to two or three years in jail.
Judge Christopher Elwen said: "You accept you acted fraudulently and said that this was not a deliberate act. You are diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder and manic depression.

"You are now back in touch with your family and appear to be on a more even keel."

December 14, 2007