United Kingdom

Single dad killed himself after being tricked into sending £500 to a romance fraudster he met online

A single father killed himself at his home just weeks before Christmas after being preyed upon by cruel romance scammers.

Roofer Christopher Leeds, 43, of Dolgellau in north west Wales, was found hanged on December 5, 2020 by a close childhood friend.

The friend recalled how on the day of the tragedy a tearful Chris had told him 'lots of s***' had happened'.  

An inquest at Caernarfon heard he had been in online contact with a woman supposedly from Africa who seemed to want a relationship with him, then started demanding money.

He sent at least £500 for her flight to Britain but then she sought more cash from the single father.

Chris Leeds, 43, of Dolgellau in Gwynedd took his own life after being scammed by a fake romance fraudster online

Friend Gareth Evans said Chris realised he had been scammed but told him about another woman in Nigeria called 'Paramount.' 

Mr Evans said: 'He sent money to her, too. She was meant to land in Britain two days before his death.'

Mr Evans said when he visited Chris he knew his childhood friend had been upset. He returned later to his home to check on his welfare but Mr Leeds was dead.

Family members attended the inquest into his death. 

The coroner was told by one woman: 'It was a scam. We have been through messages on his phone.'

Remarking on the 'truly tragic case', Coroner Kate Sutherland recorded a conclusion of suicide. 

She said: 'He may well have been scammed and had been suffering from embarrassment. 

'He appears to have been scammed by a person or persons purporting to be a woman or women from Africa. He was hugely impacted.'

The coroner added :'This is a truly, truly, tragic case. He had years and years ahead of him. It presents a stark warning about the dangers out there.'

Mr Evans recalled how on the day of the tragedy tearful Mr Leeds had told him 'lots of s***' had happened with 'Paramount'. 

When he returned to see if Chris was ok, he found him hanging in his own home.

He called for an ambulance and police. 'I said to the operator he had already gone,' Mr Evans said in a statement read at the inquest.

An online obituary read: 'Christopher Leeds (Chris) left this world on Saturday 5th of December. A loving son, brother, dad, uncle and friend. 

'To those close to Chris the loss is immeasurable but so is the love left behind.

'A gentle soul who will be missed by so many.'

Friends, who managed to raise £1,000 online for local charities after his death, said: 'Chris' passing has left a huge hole in the families hearts, a hole that can never be filled.

'For his tribute it is the families wish for donations to go towards CAIS, a meaningful charity based here in North Wales.

'Chris, your loss is immeasurable but so is the love left behind.' 

Earlier this year Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting centre, warned of a 20 per cent increase in bank transfer romance fraud between January and November 2020 compared to the previous year, with the total value of the scams rising by 12 per cent to £18.5 million.

The average loss per victim reported to UK Finance members was £7,850.

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