Fraudster who stole his friend’s identity lived a lie for 25 years

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A conman who used the name of a childhood friend for more than a quarter of a century is behind bars.

Fraudster David Watkins even allowed his partner and bosses to believe that he was really David Brooks.

The failed coffee salesman came a cropper when he was nabbed for drinking and driving – and police contacted the genuine David Brooks in Bristol.

A stunned Mr Brooks was in court at Selkirk this week to watch the man who nabbed his identity jailed for 10 months.

He said later: “These crimes have affected me badly. Ten months is a very fair sentence.”

Watkins used to stay in Selkirk, but later moved to Beech Avenue in Galashiels.

Sheriff Kevin Drummond told the call centre worker: “This was a blatant and far-reaching use of identity theft.”

The story of the 47-year-old’s double life was unravelled in court on Monday. Police only became suspicious after he was convicted of drinking and driving last year and when the real David Brooks was asked to surrender his licence.

Watkins admitted giving a false name and attempting to pervert the course of justice when his car was pulled over at Kingsknowes roundabout on the outskirts of Galashiels on October 14. He also pleaded guilty to giving police a false name at his home on October 19, and again at Level Crossing Road, Selkirk, on December 13.

These offences cost him fines totalling £500, but it was giving a false name when he appeared at Selkirk Sheriff Court to face a drink-driving charge on November 8 which saw Watkins locked up.

Watkins was employed as David Brooks, had a tenancy in that name, and even his partner believed Brooks to be his true identity.

Prosecutor Mark Keane told how Watkins gave police his details as David Brooks when they stopped him at Kingsknowes. And when officers called at the accused’s home on October 19 he provided them with the same information.

Mr Keane went on: “Police again spoke to him on December 13 as he was leaving work, and Watkins again gave his name as David Brooks.”

The prosecutor revealed that it was only after Watkins had appeared at court and was convicted of drink-driving that it became apparent he was not who he claimed.

Mr Keane went on: “The DVLA contacted David Brooks [the real one] and asked him for his driving licence, and he then got in touch with the DVLA and Selkirk Sheriff Court.”

The fiscal revealed that Watkins had been employed as David Brooks and had also made a credit application in his name. As a result of Watkins’ offending, David Brooks had to obtain a letter from police confirming his identity.

Sheriff Drummond said court records showed that David Brooks had been disqualified from driving, which was, he said, a wrong conviction.

The sheriff went on: “The Crown would have a duty to have that conviction quashed. By subterfuge, has he [Watkins] escaped a drink-driving conviction?”

Mr Keane admitted that a legal time bar now prevented the Crown from prosecuting Watkins.

Defence solicitor Ross Dow said his client had originally applied for a driving licence in Mr Brooks’ name to avoid sitting his test.

He told the court: “If he could turn back the clock, he would, but he had lied for so many years that it became easier to adopt the name of Mr Brooks. His employer knows him as David Brooks, his tenancy is in that name, and even his partner knows him as David Brooks.

“This was an outrageous lie, committed 25 years ago, which has returned to haunt him.”

He said Watkins was described as a “hard-working family man” – but he conceded his client had previous convictions for deception.

Mr Dow added: “When he was convicted of drink-driving in 2010, that was his chance to set the record straight, but he took a chance to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes.”

Sheriff Drummond told Watkins he had carried out a blatant and far-reaching use of identity theft which had greatly affected the life of his friend.

And the sheriff continued: “People giving a false name to the police when charged in connection with road traffic matters is a situation with which the court is not entirely unfamiliar. But this is a wholly different situation.

“For all that the court knows, the narrative touches only on some of the areas where this long-term identity theft, over 25 years, has impinged on public life and public record, and on the life of the genuine David Brooks, whose life has been greatly affected by your assumption of his identity.

“The public has been made more aware of identity theft in this digital age, and security of ID is of grave concern.”

And he described the offence committed in Selkirk Sheriff Court as a blatant and far-reaching use of identity theft.

And he told Watkins: “As a matter of public concern and interest, custody is the only appropriate disposal, as it is such a grave matter.”

Watkins did not ask for time to pay the £500 fines imposed and he’ll serve the alternative jail term.