COPLAND COMMUNITY SCHOOL, WEMBLEY, THE TORY FRAUD CASE AND THE MYSTERY OF THE DISAPPEARING MARY FEDDEN PAINTINGS
Whilst I was undertaking research on another blog post I happened to stumble across a story of fraud within a North London school. I made the mistake of scratching the surface and uncovering yet another web of corruption and deceit. This time it involves the Tory party, a school, a council and a well-loved British artist. The two cases coincide, both have involved lengthy investigations and one is yet to be resolved, eight years on!
Copland Community High School (as it was known at the time) is in Wembley, North London. A brand new art wing was proposed to be built and it was during this time that the school became embroiled in allegations of financial mismanagement totalling more than £2.7 million. It was also claimed that London artist, Mary Fedden, was visited by Deputy Headteacher, Richard Evans, and children from the school (which some claim were used as leverage), and asked to donate a number of pieces of artwork for the new wing.
SIR ALAN DAVIES – Headteacher
Alan Davies was lauded as a ‘Superhead’ having been knighted in 2000 for ‘services to education’. Charges against him were:
- Accused of conspiracy to defraud – said to have received £900,000 in ‘inappropriate payments’.
- Accused of laundering £270,490 by transferring the sum from a NatWest bank account in England to a Spanish bank account in March 2008.
- Accused of six counts of false accounting, said to have taken place between April 2007 and June 2009 – part of his alleged efforts to ‘cover up his activities’.
Agreed to a plea bargain of admitting the lesser charges whilst the most serious charges were dropped.
Lost his knighthood following his conviction.
DR RICHARD EVANS – Deputy Headteacher
Richard Evans is a former Westminster councillor. He was also a prospective parliamentary candidate for Neath and then for Hendon (twice – failed). A former education adviser to David Cameron, he was rumoured to be in the running for a knighthood. Accused of obtaining £600,000 in ‘inappropriate payments’ and also questioned over the sale of 15 Mary Fedden paintings that had been left to the school. Now a maths teacher in Mill Hill. Charges dropped. Still not answering questions regarding the sale of the Mary Fedden paintings. His wife was also arrested and questioned.
COLOMBUS ODOKORO – School Bursar
Former bursar accused of fraud. Charges dropped.
INDRAVADAN PATEL – Chair of Governors
Patel is a medical practitioner based in Stanmore. Admitted payments made to Davies. Accused of fraud. Charges dropped. Now a trustee of Keith Vaz’s Silver Star diabetes charity.
MARTIN DAY – Vice Chair of Governors
Accused of fraud. Charges dropped.
MICHELE MCKENZIE – HR Manager
Accused of fraud. Charges dropped.
KEIR STARMER – Head of Crown Prosecution Service
Allegedly became involved in a plea bargain prior to the trial.
THE COPLAND SCHOOL FRAUD CASE
- 13 May 2009: Headteacher Sir Alan Seymour Davies and Deputy Headteacher Richard Evans are suspended from Copland Community School pending an investigation in to financial irregularities following a whistleblower’s report. The school had received visits from Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron. LINK
- 7 June 2009: Deputy head of Copland School and Tory Party activist, Richard Evans, is accused of selling around 15 pieces of art work at auction that had been donated by the artist, Mary Fedden, on the undestanding they would be displayed within the school’s new art wing. Sotheby’s confirmed that they had sold them on behalf of Dr Evans for thousands of pounds each. LINK
- TWO YEARS LATER!……
- 1 Mar 2011: Headteacher, deputy head and three other employees at Copland School are arrested following an investigation by the fraud squad and Brent Council. Dr Patel, Chair of Governors, admits the headteacher was paid two bonuses totalling £130,000 over two years for his ‘excellent work’ towards the new art wing. LINK
- 7 June 2012: Dr Patel is charged alongside five others in connection with allegations of a £1.8 million fraud conspiracy at Copland School. LINK / LINK
- 19 June 2012: Six defendants appear at Westminster Magistrates Court accused of defrauding Brent Council out of more than £2.5 million. LINK
- 4 July 2012: Following a referral by the Metropolitan Police to the General Medical Council, Dr Patel is suspended from the medical register for 18 months pending an investigation.
- 21 Dec 2012: Dr Patel, long-standing chairman of the finance committee at Copland Community School, has his suspension lifted by the GMC following his appeal to a High Court judge. LINK
- Feb 2013: Six appear at Southwark Crown Court accused of fraud. Judge Anthony Leonard QC remands all six on bail. They are due to stand trial on September 16th.
- 3 Oct 2013: Before commencement of the trial, a deal is proposed by the defence. Head of the Crown Prosecution Service, Keir Starmer, becomes involved and Sir Alan agrees to plead guilty to six of the eight charges (the six least serious for false accounting) in return for the two most serious charges being dropped (that of conspiracy to defraud and money laundering). As agreed, charges are dropped against the five other defendants and Sir Alan pleads guilty of false accounting. He’s given a two year suspended sentence by Judge Deborah Taylor and all walk free from court. LINK / LINK
- 4 Oct 2013: Former Deputy Head of Copland School, Richard Evans, tells of relief after charges of conspiracy were dropped and it’s reported that he was ‘cleared’. <Without wishing to sound like a pedant, none of them were cleared of the charges of conspiracy and money laundering as this element of the case was dropped by the CPS. I’ve no doubt that didn’t go down well to all the coppers who spent time investigating the case.> Brent Council indicates it may pursue compensation through the civil courts. LINK
- 22 May 2014: Alan Davies, former ‘superhead’ of Copland School loses his knighthood following his conviction for false accounting. LINK
- SEVEN YEARS LATER!…
- 12 June 2016: Seven years after allegations that Dr Richard Evans had sold Mary Fedden’s paintings that she had donated to the school, the mystery is still ongoing. Brent Council claim three had been found in a cupboard, but the other 15 are still unaccounted for. LINK
- I’d like to ask Dr Evans why the other 15 paintings were sold at auction?
- Did he have proof they were his when he sold them through Sotheby’s?
- Were the proceeds given to the school or kept by Dr Evans?
- Why is this issue still ongoing EIGHT YEARS after it first emerged?
- Why have the three remaining paintings not been returned to the school by Brent Council?
- Did Keir Starmer involve himself in the legal process of the fraud case?
- Why were charges dropped against all other defendants despite an indepth and lengthy FOUR YEAR investigation?
- Is Dr Patel really the ideal choice to be a trustee of a charity despite admitting inappropriate payments at Copland School?
- Did Brent Council ever recover the £2.7m?
- Did any of them consider the knock-on effect this would have on the school and the children who found themselves under such a horrible cloud?