Conman robbed victim’s daughter of university dream

Elizabeth and Jonathan Speirs
Elizabeth and Jonathan Speirs
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The widow of a dying man conned out of almost half a million pounds by a close friend has revealed the heartless crime has left her daughter unable to accept a place at a top university due to cash constraints.

Jonathan Speirs, a world-famous lighting architect, was swindled out of a total of £476,864 by friend and neighbour Keith Cameron through a complicated ruse slammed by a judge as “wicked and cruel”.

Yesterday, Cameron was handed a five-year jail sentence at Edinburgh Sheriff Court, but Mr Speirs’ wife, Elizabeth, said “no length of prison term will ever compensate for the dreadful crime he committed”.

And the heartbroken widow revealed her youngest daughter faced missing out on a place at her dream university in New York – after Cameron stole the family’s cash and spent it on his lavish lifestyle and a New York flat for his own daughter, who attended the American Academy of Drama and the Arts.

Cameron, 54, persuaded terminally ill Mr Speirs – his close friend and neighbour for 13 years – to part with thousands of pounds by claiming his 
telecoms start-up required money to win a valuable contract.

Exploiting his relationship with the victim and his knowledge of the telecoms industry, the devious businessman – the former European boss of US communications group Global Crossing – repeatedly claimed the company was trading well and that Mr Speirs could expect a return on his investment of around £2 million within two years.

But the scheme later turned out to be an elaborate lie, with Cameron, of Russell Place, Trinity, instead using his friend’s cash to maintain a lavish lifestyle of posh restaurants and fancy holidays, and sending both his daughters to private school and his eldest to university in New York.

Mr Speirs died of stomach cancer in 2012. His widow said Cameron’s heartless scheme had left her and her two daughters “dealing with the consequences of his crime both emotionally and financially for the rest of our lives”.

Her teenage daughter, Erin, who is currently in sixth year at school, has recently secured a place on her dream university course in New York – but the youngster now faces losing out as the family can’t afford the fees.

The 58-year-old said: “If Keith Cameron hadn’t defrauded us, Erin could have followed her dreams. But we have to live with knowing that our money was spent on allowing Cameron’s daughter to study in New York while my daughter can’t.

“It’s still hard to believe that someone who, supposedly, was our friend could behave in such a cold-hearted fashion, pretending to care about my husband and pretending to show grief at his funeral, whilst all the time he was knowingly spending our money on luxuries for his family – money we’d worked hard for.

“It fills me with horror to think that anyone could be so cruel and heartless towards a good, kind man but especially towards a man who was facing death.”

Mrs Speirs, a supply teacher, also revealed that Cameron had texted her asking to see her husband just days before he passed away in June 2012.

The text read: “Tell him I don’t care what he looks like, he’s a dear friend and that’s all that matters.”

Last month she said the family now faced being forced to sell off the spacious Ferry Road home where she had lived with her husband for 24 years.

She said: “Keith Cameron knew that Jon saw the investment in Chase Telecom as security for our future.

“By spending the money on his own family, he knew that he was not only cheating a dying man in the most cold-blooded manner imaginable, but also taking from Jon a secure future for myself and our daughters.

“Neither Jon nor I came from wealthy backgrounds. We both worked very hard to get to where we were.

“It sends shivers down my spine now that I know there was nothing genuine in that friendship and that it was all a facade so that the Camerons could live a life of luxury while my husband was slowly dying.

“A lengthy prison sentence is totally justified.”

Police Scotland Detective Inspector Arron Clinkscales also welcomed the sentence handed down to Cameron.

He said: “Keith Cameron used his expertise and relationship to make his victim believe that this was a legitimate investment.”