A “fantasist” who claimed to be in the elite SBS special forces unit has been jailed for his part in a plot to dump a dementia-suffering American pensioner in rural England.
Simon Hayes left 78-year-old Roger Curry with medical staff near Hereford Hospital on November 7 2015, claiming he had found him “face down” in a country lane.
Prosecutors said Hayes, 53, of Somerset, told “a pack of lies” about Mr Curry, but his motivations for getting involved were still unclear.
Described in court as a “pathological liar”, Hayes’ actions and false witness statements led detectives on a “wild goose chase” trying to work out where Mr Curry had come from, and how he had got to the UK.
Opening the case on Tuesday, Simon Davis QC, prosecuting, said Hayes was contacted by “best mate” Kevin Curry – the victim’s son – then living in California.
They exchanged a series of texts and calls before Kevin Curry flew with his mother and father to London Gatwick on November 5 2015.
On November 23, Kevin Curry and his mother flew to Denmark – without his father.
At Hayes’ sentencing at Worcester Crown Court, Mr Davis said: “The defendant was part of a plan to bring Roger from the US and dump him in Hereford, abandoning him so he could receive care from local health care providers.
“It was clearly planned.”
At 4.20pm on November 5 2015, Hayes, dressed in a fake military uniform and putting on a US accent, took Mr Curry to Hereford bus station, near the hospital, telling a nurse and later paramedics that he had found the older man in a country lane.
Hayes, of Ivy House Park, Taunton, left Mr Curry with medics after claiming he could not give any contact details because he was “working with the SAS” at their nearby camp.
Mr Davis said Hayes then joined Kevin Curry and his mother on a holiday to France and Copenhagen in Denmark.
Back in Hereford, the mystery of Mr Curry’s identity – dubbed Credenhill Man after the location where he was found – triggered an international police appeal for information, even involving the FBI, before the truth came out.
Police began to suspect he had been deliberately dumped, and suspicion even fell on the nurse Hayes had initially spoken to at the bus station as “police could not establish if she was telling the truth”.
By March 2016, Roger Curry, who had an autistic spectrum disorder and Alzheimer’s, had managed to tell nurses his name.
Inquiries led authorities to ring Kevin Curry’s address in Whittier, California, but he claimed nobody called Roger lived there.
The police got a break when Hayes, for reasons which are still a mystery, called West Mercia Police, identifying himself as the man who handed the victim to medics.
Jailing Hayes for two and a half years, Judge Daniel Pearce-Higgins QC said: “There’s no certainty that had he not done that, he’d ever have been found.”
But Hayes again lied, claiming he and a “Canadian Army serviceman” had found Mr Curry, that he lived in Los Angeles, and that at the time he had been “attending a course at the SAS base”.
The court heard Hayes had spent some time in the US but was deported in January 2013 after a drink-driving conviction.
He also twice changed the exact location he allegedly found the elderly victim, but it was “all lies”, said Mr Davis.
When Hayes claimed he was visiting his parents in Taunton, police spoke to his father Ken, who confirmed his son knew Roger and Kevin Curry.
Detectives arrested Hayes, who claimed he was a “qualified physiotherapist” and “had met Sir Frank Williams, David Coulthard and also trained racing drivers”, Mr Davis told the court.
The prosecutor added: “He said he had been in the SBS and been in Hereford for a short while – but was unable to answer a simple question any serviceman would know – ‘what’s your Army number?’.”
Hayes admitted perverting the course of justice and a separate case of fraud, in relation to a false character reference, ahead of a sentencing hearing on Tuesday.
Hayes’ barrister Ashley Hendron told the court: “It is possible he believes his own fantasy.”
After Hayes was deported from the US he sent unsuccessful visa applications in 2014, 2015 and 2016.
These were supported by a fake reference claiming to be from British Major-General Francis “Buster” Howes.
The reference claimed Hayes had been a captain in the Royal Marine Commandos, and had won the Military Cross in the Gulf War.
Maj Gen Howes told police he had never heard of Hayes, the court was told.
The victim was cared for by the NHS while a public appeal and criminal investigation continued, costing the NHS up to £20,000.
He was safely returned to the US in 2016.
Mr Davis said Mr Curry’s son is under investigation in the US for elder abuse, fraud and kidnapping.
Describing the crime as a “well-planned deception”, Judge Pearce-Higgins QC said: “There was an enormous waste of police and public resources because of false information put forward by the defendant.
“I cannot find any case remotely similar to the facts of this case, curiously because there appears to be no apparent benefit to the defendant.”