Maddie fraud suspect arrested

Nov 25, 2009
Liverpool Echo
Luke Traynor

Hunt for fund fugitive ends in a top hotel: Suspected fraudster living at hotel

A private detective hired to find missing toddler Madeleine McCann was sensationally arrested yesterday after spending six months living a life of secret luxury in a top hotel, the ECHO can exclusively reveal. Detectives swooped at the plush Old Bank Hotel in Oxford to arrest suspected fraudster Kevin Halligen yesterday afternoon. The 48-year-old has remained high on the FBI's wanted list following an alleged £1.3m con in America and police have been flummoxed as to his whereabouts. Now, following a tip-off from an ex-hotel worker, Halligen is today in custody being questioned by officers.

Around £500,000 was paid to his firm, Oakley International, by the Find Madeleine Fund, set up by Liverpool-born Kate and Gerry McCann, Maddie's parents. It followed the disappearance of their daughter, three, from a flat in Praia da Luz, Portugal, in 2007. But his contract was torn up after six months as little or no progress was made with the hunt. Private investigators allegedly hired by Halligen found it increasingly difficult to claim their fees, including a former national head of undercover operations for the British police, who says he is owed £100,000.

Halligen is said to have offered to provide satellite photos from the night Maddie -whose mother Kate is from Allerton - vanished to the family, but failed to do so. Now, the businessman is today being held by Thames Valley Police after they found him at the Old Bank, an Oxford haunt favoured by A-list celebrities including Meg Ryan and Cameron Diaz. A former member of staff spotted Halligen's picture in a newspaper over the weekend and told police, who moved quickly to apprehend him.

The Dubliner has remained incognito at the hotel for at least six months, staying as a permanent guest from May until November. Most of the time, he stayed with a woman, which some staff presumed to be his wife, and used various aliases including Mr and Mrs Hall, Kev and Richard.

One source told the ECHO: "He was down in the bar every night getting trashed. He was running up huge bills. He referred to it as Hotel California as he 'never wanted to leave', just like The Eagles famous song. He spoke with an American accent with a British twang. We were told he intended to stay there for six months. And he mentioned he was living off a relative's inheritance.

"He was quite eccentric and drank a hell of a lot. A friend told me on Monday night, the day after some newspapers wrote about him, he was really drunk." On one occasion, he suddenly checked out of the Old Bank in September, only to return weeks later, hotel guests said.

In Liverpool, relatives of the McCann's reacted with surprise to the latest development. Sue Healy, Maddy's grandmother, from Mossley Hill, told the ECHO: "As I understand, he didn't fulfil the contract, but it was closed as Kate and Gerry weren't happy about it." Clarence Mitchell, spokesman for the McCann's said last night their association with Oakley International ended 12 months ago.

It is alleged Halligen defrauded a law firm out of £1.3m, stating he could help free two jailed men in war-torn Africa, but instead splashed the fortune on a new mansion.

And Halligen is reportedly embroiled in a further two big money fraud matters, all of which has led to the US Department of Justice issuing an indictment seeking his arrest.

A spokeswoman for Thames Valley Police said: "We have arrested a 48-year-old man on suspicion of fraud offences. He remains in custody."

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