Hunt for victims of Gaydar web conman Mark Bishop, 38
IT was one of the most remarkable cases of deception police in Cheltenham had ever seen.
Now, one year after conman Mark Bishop was jailed for duping gay men out of more than £250,000, police said they believe there could be more victims.
Bishop, 38, from Cirencester, posed as an Old Etonian from a wealthy background who stood to inherit a mansion.
After getting to know his victims, he would come up with hard luck stories about struggling to access his trust fund.
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He would ask to borrow money – then would disappear as soon as he was asked to pay it back.
Bishop embarked on a decade of crime between 2000 and 2010, using a string of false identities to prey on people via gay dating website Gaydar. His criminal past eventually caught up with him when police tracked him down.
But PC Anita Collins, who led the investigation, said the full extent of his crimes was still not known.
She said: "I have got no doubt there are other people out there who fell victim to Mark Bishop. We have had a couple of calls from people over the last year claiming to have lost money to him – but they were not prepared to give statements.
"Maybe it is because people feel foolish for having fallen for his deceptions that they don't want to go on the record. But there is no need to feel stupid. He was simply very good at what he did."
Bishop's decade of crime began in 2000 when he stole £4,500 from a Kent care home.
From then on he preyed on a series of men – many whom he met through the gay dating website – in order to fund a champagne lifestyle of penthouse suites, five-star restaurants and designer clothes. Using aliases - including Jamie Hopegood, Toby Hughes, Jack Cadogan, Max Lane and Tobias Osbourne – he lined up victims, bombarding them with text messages.
He was eventually arrested in 2007 for leaving a B&B with a £900 bill, but skipped police bail and went on the run for three years.
PC Collins said she was keen to find out more about Bishop's activities during that time.
"We know hardly anything about how he accessed funds while he was on the run between 2007 and 2010," she added.
"He did not work or claim benefits during that time so it is almost certain he continued to pay for his lifestyle in the same way as before – through deceiving gay men.
"If there is anyone out there who lost money to him and hasn't already spoken to us I would urge them to come forward."