Wolfson College fellow convicted of £238,000 lottery fund theft

Catherine Maguire 23 September 2015

A fellow and tutor of Wolfson College has been found guilty of theft to a total of £238,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

David Barrowclough, whose academic interests lie in the long-term cultural developments of North West England and lowland East Anglia, was found to have made funding applications for non-existing projects, using the money to finance mortgage payments and an Alfa Romeo hatchback car.

Barrowclough was charged with nine counts of fraud and one count of obtaining property by deception, and was cleared of all but one. He pleaded not guilty.

It was revealed to the court by witnesses that Barrowclough, 48, had forged signatures supporting applications for bogus projects.  Staff at Ely museum raised suspicions when they opened a letter delineating a payment of £18,500 to Barrowclough for an ‘Origins of Ely’ project. 

The court also heard that Barrowclough also fabricated letters, invoices and a false e-mail account for Ely Museum, where he had sat as a board trustee in 2009. He received regular payments from 2006-2013.

Dr Barrowclough’s criminal behaviour was not without precedent: in November 1997, he was sentenced to four years in prison following an admission to 12 counts of theft, whereupon he was struck off as a solicitor.

Wolfson College was unaware of his previous fradulent behaviour owing to his having submitted a CV and cover letter as opposed to an application form that requires candidates to declare any criminal history.

The academic has already repaid more than £70,000 to the HLF by request, who said that they will seek further reimbursement, potentially through further legal action.

Judge Murphy added that a six-year prison sentence was "more than justified in light of the evidence I have heard.

"This was […] a sophisticated and sustained case of fraud on a number of occasions."