WHEN family and friends gathered to farewell David Bartholomew’s mother, Judith Manning, in 2014, Ray Walker was there.
He attended the funeral offering condolences and comfort to Mr Bartholomew, who he’d known for decades.
Mr Bartholomew considered his long-time Newcastle accountant a genuine friend.
What he didn’t know was that Walker was a fraudster whose stock in trade was not just his accounting ability, but also the trust he inspired in his clients, mostly retirees, so he could fleece them of their life savings.
Perhaps Walker’s biggest asset was self-confidence. He loved people to think he cared. The father of three and grandfather of seven sat through Mrs Manning’s funeral knowing that he had already stolen her $150,000 nest egg that he had been trusted to invest.
It was all Mrs Manning, who died aged 71, had.
“My mother had the greatest respect for him,” Mr Bartholomew said. “The part that I can’t get over is that he sat in the church at my mother’s funeral knowing that the money was not there. That he’d taken it all from her. What kind of person does that? Only the lowest form of scumbag I have ever seen in my life.”
Walker fleeced 70 unsuspecting creditors, most of them ageing clients in the Hunter, of more than $10 million under the guise of acting as their trusted accountant. Many of them considered him a friend.
Many of the clients have told Fairfax Media that there was little about Walker to arouse suspicion – and so much to inspire trust.
Mr Bartholomew said he never suspected a thing.
“I put my mother’s life savings in his hands in good faith and he used it like it was nothing,” he said.
“I’m totally devastated, I’d known him for 20-odd years, you lose faith in people. The only saving grace is that I never had to tell mum what happened. How could I have ever explained that to a woman that used to pay her bills the day she got them?”
The fallout from the news the accountant was behind a $10 million Ponzi scheme has been widespread.
Most of the investors believed their money was safely locked away in term-deposit accounts with major banks.
Instead, Walker – who took his own life with a stab wound to the heart at his $1.3 million holiday home in 2015 after being found out – diverted the money into his own account and frittered it away.
Walker’s bankruptcy trustee Ray Tolcher said the scams were convincing because they appeared safe. He is tracing the money trail in the hope of securing a return for creditors.
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