Hero Hornchurch roofer helped topple ‘British Madoff’

A HORNCHURCH roofer was a key figure in the toppling of a City fraudster – dubbed the British Madoff - who fleeced hundreds of people out of millions of pounds.

Peter Beeson, from Osborne Road, lost �600k - his retirement nest egg and children’s inheritance - to scheming Terry Freeman, 62.

Peter’s money, the fruit of more than 20 years of hard work was lost in less than two, when Freeman convinced the 52-year-old and hundreds of others they could make their fortunes investing in foreign currency.

Peter admitted it was a “typical too good to be true story”, but after befriending Freeman – who employed Peter’s daughter Katie, 22, as his PA – and through complicated but convincing electronic correspondences on Freeman’s trading prowess, he starting investing.

“I worked 14 hours a day, seven days a week to build up that money for my future,” said Peter. “I hadn’t taken a holiday in 15 years. I always said when I reached one million [pounds] I would take early retirement - that was within my sights, but now it’s all gone again and I’m back out to work.”

This week Freeman faces eight years in jail after pleading guilty to defrauding 350 victims out of �17.5m – although Peter believes the real figure is much higher.

Freeman tricked investors into believing they had made profits through a series of weekly trading updates, and by transferring a float of around �1.5m between foreign bank accounts.

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But in reality Freeman had lost most of the cash to the money market or funding his own lavish lifestyle.

Freeman finally handed himself into City of London police in early 2009.

It followed a confrontation by Peter with Freeman in the scammer’s Buckhurst Hill home in Essex.

Peter says alarm bells began ringing in late 2008 when angry investors started turning up at Freeman’s office, demanding money.

“At first I believed Freeman when he said it was a mistake and I stuck up for him,” said Peter, “but when I saw on his computer that the funds, which should have been around �35m were �8m - he later broke down and admitted everything.

“I told Freeman he had a day to hand himself in or I would. He was crying and shaking because he knew he was in a lot of trouble.”

Peter next played detective, teaming up Freeman’s secretary – who held the key to his City office - to download hundreds of files from computers to make sure they were not destroyed before an investigation began.

The pair handed them over to police.

Now victim Peter has turned activist, setting up an help group, GFX Action, to try and recoup some of the losses from those he deems should have protected investors.

They include a Swiss bank, where Freeman had deposited monies, as well as the Government watchdog, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) – which twice investigated Freeman in the past but failed to uncover wrongdoing.

Peter has already successfully fought for �6m for the group from another Swiss bank.

“I have 37 pages of impact statements that would make you weep,” said Peter. “One girl with an 18-month-old baby tried to slash her wrist; another person died of cancer before seeing Freeman brought to justice; old people who can’t go back out to work have lost everything - and it’s all down to this evil, nasty piece of work.

“But it gives me encouragement to keep fighting for those who have lost everything.”

Wall Street trader Bernard Madoff was jailed in the US in 2009 for defrauding investors of �90bn in the biggest scam of its kind in history.