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Theatre PR Tony Barlow jailed for £100,000 scam

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Former theatre PR Tony Barlow has been sentenced to a 40-month prison term after pleading guilty to fleecing an opera producer and theatrical agent of more than £100,000.

Barlow, 70, of Park Hill Road, Wallington, “leeched” from dying 73 year-old opera and theatre producer Alan Sievewright and 94 year-old agent Elspeth Cochrane – and then lost all the money on a Nigerian get-rich-quick scheme.

Croydon Crown Court Judge Ruth Downing said that Barlow had worked with artists including Margot Fonteyn and Rudolph Nureyev. He was said to have had a long-standing friendship with Sievewright, but repaid that friendship by systematically taking his money.

Judge Ruth Downing said : “When he died and was no longer available to milk, you moved on to Miss Cochrane and I’ve no doubt you thought the lady might die before the trial.” She said that Barlow was “greedy and stupid.”

Barlow pleaded guilty to 11 sample counts of theft between October 2006 and August 2009. He targeted long-term friend Sievewright, an operatic and theatrical impresario who was responsible for bringing young tenor Jose Carreras to the UK. Sievewright, who died in 2007, also worked with Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo. His theatre company, Iambic Productions, showcased the talents of performers such as Rudolf Nureyev, Monseratt Caballe and Maria Callas.

Barlow was working for the London Festival Ballet when he met Sievewright and the pair became friends. As the victim’s health deteriorated Barlow gradually assumed control of his finances, which culminated in the systematic daily withdrawal of cash from ATMs. He followed this with large cheque withdrawals and eventually full bank transfers from Sievewright’s account to his own.

The con was only discovered after Beverley Anderson, Sievewright’s niece, found discrepancies in her uncle’s accounts after his death in 2007, and contacted police. Detectives discovered that after emptying his old friend’s account, Barlow began stealing from agent Elspeth Cochrane, whose management company was still enjoying a lucrative royalty income after decades in the business.

Cochrane, of Trinity Close, The Pavement, Clapham Common, had built up a roster of clients since the 1960’s, including Ian McKellen, and believed Barlow was helping her voluntarily. Due to her poor health, Barlow gradually gained unrestricted access to her bank accounts and helped himself to a total of £63,000 over two years.

When police contacted Cochrane they discovered the previously comfortable pensioner was in dire straits financially with accounts overdrawn, letters from bailiffs and unpaid bills. She had planned to move into Denville Hall, the care home for retired professional actors and actresses, but can lo longer afford to live there.

In a victim impact statement, Cochrane told of her humiliation and horror at finding out she had lost all of her money and could not move into Denville Hall. Barlow, jailed for forgery in the eighties, claimed he began stealing the money after his Russian lover fled home with his life-savings.

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