Conman Anthony McErlean tells of failed death hoax from behind bars
by Joe Walker
A pensioner who faked his own death in an attempt to pocket
a £500,000 insurance payout has described the ploy as "a bloody
Fraudster Anthony McErlean, 67,
was jailed for six years last October after admitting forging a
death certificate to say he had been killed by a cabbage truck in
The conman, of Hill Road, Canterbury, also pleaded guilty to
claiming £68,000 on his late father-in-law's pension.
But on ITV's Pensioners Behind Bars last night, he claims he was
"unlucky" to get caught and even gives himself credit for the
Speaking from his cell at HMP Elmley on the Isle of
Sheppey, McErlean said: "I was unlucky - I thought it was a
bloody good scheme.
"But one musn't go committing fraud against major insurance
companies, because they really are such lovely people."
McErlean used the documentary to shed some some light on his
crimes, saying they were sparked by debts he ran up while caring
for his terminally ill wife.
He said: "She died and I went off the rails. I was drinking far
too much – trying to blot out everything."
McErlean married again, this time to Sonya Regalado, but failed
to tell his new Honduran spouse of his money problems.
But while in the Carribean country he thought he had found a way
to make them – and himself – disappear.
He said: "I happened to say to a very good friend that I had
been paying for 13-odd years into a high-value life policy. [My
friend said] 'Oh, I can tell you how to get all the certificates
for that. You can easily be dead here'.
"The more I thought about it, the more I thought 'yeah,
£520,000, that will do me'."
McErlean faked his own demise with a bogus death certificate and
even forged a witness statement (pictured below) from a man
who did not exist.
He said: "Everything's buyable there. The whole lot were genuine
original documents, and it all stacked up."
Bogus witness statement
created by McErlean and submitted with his fake death
But McErlean started worrying after submitting the claim,
fearing for his own health.
He said: "I thought 'jeez, if I get sick here. I can't go back
to the UK and get healthcare'. I'm really up a creek without a
paddle here and I started to back pedal. I thought 'no, but how do
you un-kill yourself'?"
McErlean continued with his plan and returned to Kent, where he
was holed up in a house in Petham.
He said: "I'd grown a black beard and had long black hair.
People I knew didn't recognise me."
But his scheme was not watertight and he had made one fatal
error – McErlean had left his fingerprints on his own death
Insurance investigators called in police and his scam was
brought to a sudden end without him ever seeing a penny.
He said: "What can you say? I'm in here. I regret being in here
but I don't think I shouldn't be in here. I knew what I was doing
and I knew the risks. I'm as guilty as the day is long."
HMP Elmley, where
McErlean is being held
Classified as a low-risk prisoner, McErlean has bagged himself a
job as a chef in the prisoner officer's mess.
His sentence was reduced in March on appeal from six years to
five because of his ailing health, meaning he will be eligible for
parole next September.
He said: "We're all locked in cells so there's masses of time
for reflection and recrimination if one feels inclined. It's like
cooking in a monastery without the prayers.
"Life' a bit like Monopoly, isn't it? But I just got the Go To
Jail and not the £200."
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