Anorak News | Madeleine McCann: I Foiled The ‘Maddie Conman’ From 300 Miles Away

Madeleine McCann: I Foiled The ‘Maddie Conman’ From 300 Miles Away

by | 29th, November 2009

MADDIE WATCH Anorak’s at-a-glance guide to press coverage of Madeleine McCann: The true story of the arrest of the “Maddie fraudster” – the “Maddie conman” – Kevin Halligen, Maddie’s “James Bond spy“.

WHEN Kevin Halligen was arrested in a dispute over a bill at an Oxfordshire hotel, the UK press billed him as the “Maddie fraudster”. Halligen owned a detective company hired by Kate and Gerry McCann to find their daughter. His arrest had nothing to do the media’s Our Maddie. Halligen’s alleged fraud involves a dispute with a law firm in the US. The Sun said it found Halligen when its “investigators staked out a luxury Oxford hotel then tipped off cops”. But the man who really spotted him and tipped off the police and the press offers his account exclusively to Anorak. Christopher Winsley explains.


LIKE many 22-year-old students across the UK, my Sunday’s start with a spiltting headache, and very little memory from the night before. Last weekend, I regret to say, was no different. I woke up after an enjoyable evening, followed by coffee, and a trip to the local shop to buy a few newspapers to linger over throughout the day.

I am a postgraduate student at University College Falmouth, studying Journalism, so newspapers are an essential part of my routine. I tended to flip through a tabloid and a broadsheet, mainly focusing on Sports, and stopping at the odd page to read interesting stories. On Sunday I came across this picture in a Broadsheet (left).

kevin-halligenI recognised the man instantly- but the name they gave him was a mystery – Kevin Halligen?

**This summer I worked in Oxford in the restaurant Bar attached to the Old Bank Hotel. I had seen this man there with his ‘wife’ (not the one in the photo), and I had spoken to him, under the name Mr Richard Hall. I left the Old Bank in September to start my postgraduate degree in Cornwall. I went back to Oxford on a number of Occasions to visit close friends. I always popped into the Hotel and the restaurant, and every time I did, Mr Hall was there.**

I read the article underneath the picture, and I was horrified. I could not believe that I knew, or at least knew of this man.

**In October I was in Oxford visiting the Hotel, waiting for friends to finish their nightshift. I found myself talking to Mr Hall, a very outspoken man, with an Anglo-American accent. He said to me, and others around him: “We love this hotel. It’s a fantastic place. The staff are friendly, the food is good – we (he and his ”wife”) call it Hotel California.” Promptly somebody asked on the duration of his stay. He responded to words of the effect of indefinite.**

After reading about how this man had allegedly defrauded so many people – including an allegation that he had misspent funds form the McCann fund – and of course being wanted by the FBI, I had no doubt in my mind that I should call the police. I suspected that he was more than likely to be in the hotel still. I desperately tried to get in touch with them, emailing the US Embassy on the way. I phoned Crimestoppers too. Crimestoppers seemed reluctant to believe me. The US Embassy never got back to me.

winsley-christopherThe next morning I headed to University, searching for any news on his arrest. After little luck I decided, after some advice, that if I contacted the major newspapers that had written articles on his story, they might be able to help bring justice to Kevin Halligen, by placing a bit of pressure on the police. To be specific I spoke to a broadsheet paper, the Liverpool Echo and the Sun. I asked in all three cases to remain anonymous- I didn’t want publicity, I wanted to help find Halligen.

The day after the arrest

A couple of days passed. On the way to university on Wednesday, I stopped with the people I was travelling in with to get some change for the car park from a local newsagents. In the queue at the shop I browsed over a couple of tabloid headlines when I spotted the Sun. The image of the man I had sought out to have arrested was on the front page. I felt proud. I was an integral part of the Sun’steam” in locating the man – and they had honoured their word and kept my name out of it.

On Thursday morning I received a call: “Check out the Liverpool Echo’s website.” I did, there I was, revealed as the student who helped to capture this man – Kevin Halligen. At first I was angry, but I warmed to the article.

Now and again I look at the picture’s published by the Sun of Kevin Halligen, feeling a little bit guilty, that I played a part in his eventual arrest. When I spoke to him, he drank too much, and he came across as arrogant. His tastes were expensive – champagne, large vodka’s and expensive cognac.

One unspeakably strange ‘thing’ came out of all of this. Despite helping, with many other people in capturing this international fugitive, the Old Bank Hotel’s Operations Director has refused to let me come back and work in the Hotel Bar over the Christmas period as previously arranged because of what they consider bad publicity.* Without sounding like I’m riding too much of a high horse at the, without my intervention Kevin Halligen may well be hiding out in the Hotel still, running up tabs he quite simply couldn’t afford to pay off, as is alleged.

In that sense, possibly having saved the hotel a lot of money and aided in the capture a man who extorted millions of pounds, I have been punished not rewarded.

– Christopher Winsley

So that’s the true account of what led to the arrest of the man the paper’s bill as the “Maddie fraudster”, the man the Sun’s “team” “staked out” the hotel to capture. Only Mr Winsley is not in the Sun’s team. He has never worked for the Sun. Investigative journalism is not dead – it’s just being down on the cheap…

* If the hotel would like to get in touch, we will look to publish their reaction to Mr Winsley’s claim.

Posted: 29th, November 2009 | In: Key Posts, Madeleine McCann Comments (5) | TrackBack | Permalink