Response to Lynda Bellingham, Michael Pattemore and Virtual Property World

There has recently been several articles in the press, placed there presumably by Lynda Bellingham's PR team which take a very one-sided view of some recent events and also appears to use quite a bit of "celebrity spin".

So, for the record, here are the FACTS regarding this matter;

I wrote a “one off” blog in March 2012 which expressed my concerns that a company called Virtual Property World www.virtualpropertyworld.co.uk was being ran by Michael Pattemore, a convicted fraudster who was sentenced to 2yrs in prison for his crime.

The blog was NOT written for the general public, it was for the sole purpose of bringing Michael Pattemore's conviction for fraud to the attention of the British Franchise Association (BFA) as Michael was asking potential franchisees to invest in his business by buying franchises. This was a concern for me as I operate in the same market place and felt the BFA should be aware. The BFA looked at the facts themselves and after deliberation decided to bar Virtual Property World and Michael Pattemore from exhibiting at their events and withdraw their accreditation.

As far as we know, only very few people became aware of the blog during the short 3 week period it was live online. I never sought to make others, apart from the BFA, aware of it.

The blog stated the FACT Pattemore was a convicted fraudster and linked to all the articles referred to which were already accessible and easily found online by simply Googling "Michael Pattemore".

Some of the articles found online referred to Michael's crime as "Property Fraud" (it turns out however, his fraud was not "property" related, but was for "Investment Fraud" of which he was sentenced to 2yrs in prison and served 21 months).

I referred to the FACT that Michael Pattemore is married to Lynda Bellingham and that they are both Directors of their company Virtual Propery World. Indeed, Lynda is the face of the VPW brand and she appears prominently on their website, brochures and adverts. At no time did I state that either Lynda Bellingham or Virtual Property World had been involved in any fraud, only that Michael Pattemore, a Director of the company had a prior conviction for fraud.

The one small mistake in the blog was to refer to Michael's conviction as "Property Fraud" and not "Investment Fraud".

Michael Pattemore and Lynda Bellingham then proceeded to sue me for "defamation and damages", they stated that the blog had "ruined" their business, Virtual Property World.

However, stats from the property portal Rightmove show that in the 12 months PRIOR to the blog their company was approximately listing just ONE property per WEEK on average, this is for their whole company which they claimed had 15 franchisees at the time. Also, accounts filed at Companies House by Virtual Property World Ltd for the year 2011 to March 2012 (the year BEFORE the blog) show loses of £120,000 and debts of more than £180,000.

It appears that their business was unsuccessful LONG BEFORE the blog and BEFORE the withdrawal of accreditation by the BFA, and therefore TOTALLY WRONG to suggest that the one-off blog caused Mr Pattemore's and Ms Bellingham's business to collapse.

They had sought over £750k plus legal costs in their claim. Contrary to the impression given in the press, the case was never heard in court. I made an offer to settle OUT OF COURT for a figure which once the lawyers have been paid the claimants are unlikely to get more than £10k each. In my opinion this was both the quickest and most economic way of dealing with the matter. The offer was accepted.

They have therefore NOT 'won' a six figure sum, and the claim was settled out of court.

The low damages offered by myself reflect the fact that Mr Pattemore had indeed been convicted of an offence of fraud, for which he received a two year prison sentence.

I have apologised for referring to Michael Pattemore as a "Property Fraudster" when he was in fact a convicted "Investment Fraudster". However I do not apologise for calling him a fraudster as this is FACT.

I would also like to make it clear that at no time have I sought to allege that either Lynda Bellingham or Virtual Property World was involved in Property Fraud. As far as I am aware, they were not.

If you're still in doubt, here is just one example of Michael Pattemore and his conviction for fraud already in the press dated from 2007:

Daily Mail - Convict smells gravy as he shares home with TV Oxo mum

And here is a recent article that cuts through the "Celebrity Spin" and tells a very different side to the story:
Canarian Weekly - Oxo Mum causes stir