The UK's fastest-growing regional news network
10°C | -1°C
10°C | 1°C
10°C | 4°C
See the full forecast for your area.
Sponsored by Britelite.
Home Kent News Article
by Chris Hunter and Keith Hunt
"My name... is Michael Caine," said the man on the other end of the phone to pastor Anthony Forsyth.
But this Michael Caine wasn't the Italian Job star, and in fact, he wasn't Michael Caine at all.
He was slippery con man John Johnson, who adopted the famous name as part of a heinous plot to ransack Pastor Forsyth's home at Biggin Farm in Sandway near Harrietsham - and is now starting a seven year jail term.
The conman began his mission at a church event in Gillingham this summer, launching into a sob story that he was an American tourist in need of help, claiming his passport had been stolen and he had nowhere to stay.
He was put in touch with Mr Forsyth, a pastor at Calvary Bible Church in Gillingham who regularly takes in people in need, and who invited him to stay with his family.
"He stayed for five days," said Mr Forsyth, speaking at his home following Johnson's sentencing this week.
"He told us he was from Tombstone, Arizona; that he was an ex pro skate boarder who had an accident and was living off the insurance.
"He played with the kids, he went out with us for family walks. We don't have guests, we just let people become part of the family. The kids thought he was great fun and we got on fine."
But after Pastor Forsyth dropped Johnson off at Lenham railway station in July, he discovered £2,242 of property had been stolen.
Worst of all, the imposter had stolen from the children's money boxes.
In court, it was revealed Johnson had duped others around the country, stealing more than £22,000 to feed a gambling habit.
On reflection, Pastor Forsyth thinks things went wrong for Johnson when he realised the family home was an isolated farm.
It made it more difficult for the imposter to plan off his raid, forcing him to stay longer than expected and thereby leave more DNA evidence.
But Mr Forsyth is unsure whether even the court knows who the real John Johnson is.
"The irony that he gave an actor's name isn't lost on me," he said, "he even joked about the name.
"We met a parody, a projection. I don't know him. He told us about his life, but how much of him was him?
"sometimes you get a bad egg, but it doesn't stop you eating eggs... we've met so many cool people..." – pastor peter forsyth
"That's how you reconcile it - you just say, I didn’t know that man. I met someone who wasn't a real person. He broke the kids' hearts."
Despite the experience, Mr Forsyth won't be put off from taking people into his home.
"Sometimes you get a bad egg, but it doesn't stop you eating eggs," he said. "We've met so many cool people.
"Over the years we've had 10 different people stay and I would say we've ended up better-off as a result."
Johnson, of no fixed address, clutched a bible in the dock as he admitted burglary and asked for four others and two thefts to be considered.
Judge Charles Byers described him as a "danger to householders", adding: "I can't imagine a meaner or lower type of offence that offends the minds and hearts of right-thinking people.
"You are a skilful and manipulative liar and you use that skill in order to infiltrate the home of people showing you great kindness, believing you were in distress and needed their Christian assistance."
Click here for more news from Kent.
Click here for more news from around the county.