Conned widow seeks justice

2016-12-05 11:19
72-year-old widow says she was scammed by Mike Hale (pictures).

72-year-old widow says she was scammed by Mike Hale (pictures). (File)

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Pietermaritzburg - Help me get him back to South Africa to face the music.

That is the plea to authorities from a widow, who was allegedly scammed out of her life savings of R1.5 million by her investment broker and the friend she thought Mike Hale was.

Helen Perry, who at 72 years old, was forced to work until April this year after planning to retire in her 60s, told The Witness that Hale’s betrayal had been a very bitter pill to swallow.

Perry lives in Margate now but had lived in Pietermaritzburg for many years previously.

Perry was widowed at age 36 and left with a three-year-old son, Wayne, to care for. A nurse, Perry realised she had an enormous responsibility towards her young son and decided to start saving for their future.

“I walked into Old Mutual in 1980 where I met Mike for the first time and I took out an insurance policy with him. Every time I had a little money, I would go to Mike and take out another policy. I used to lie awake at night thinking how I could save R50 or R70 and I would take it to him to invest for me,” said Perry.

She trusted Hale so implicitly that she followed him when he opened his broker firm, MJCM.

By the time Hale skipped Pietermaritzburg allegedly with his clients’ money, Perry had 21 policies she had taken out with him.

“I was so conscientious about saving.”

In 2001, Perry’s son had left university and had gone to England to earn pounds to help pay off his student loan.

“The exchange rate was R10 to the pound and Wayne said to me, ‘Mom, why don’t you come and work here so you can save up to buy a new car’.”

Perry ended up going to the UK for 10 years where she worked as a school nurse. She sold her property here while she was abroad.

“Mike would call me over and over again at arbitrary times, saying, ‘I’ve been thinking about you’.”

Perry said Hale would tell her he had a good deal she could invest in and once asked her for £5 000 for a great investment deal.

“He said I should sell my Old Mutual shares at one time because he believed they were going to drop in value. He was very persistent. He would phone and phone. If he felt I was hesitant he would say, ‘I’m your friend! I would never let you down. Who is your financial manager?’.

“I would come on holiday every year to South Africa and would always meet up with Mike. We would kiss hello and goodbye. That’s how close I felt to him as a friend.

“I once asked him where my statements were and he took out my file and it was full of fictitious printouts for big investment companies. He told me not to worry, he had everything in my file”.

Perry said he then told her he would be investing her money in MJCM Brokers’ investment account. “It’s quite safe,” he would tell her.

“I now think how crazy I was then,” said Perry.

Perry said she had been thinking of retiring when she turned 60, but Hale “had the gall” to tell her she should carry on working as long as she could. This, she believes, was so he would have more money of hers to make off with.

Mike Hale operated from 296 Bulwer Street at MJCM brokers before he skipped with the cash in July 2009.

He left the country on July 9, supposedly for a holiday in the United Kingdom. Dozens of people reported at the time that they had made investments totalling many millions with him. He also allegedly cleaned out the company accounts. He never returned, and clients never got the interest payout they were expecting that month. Signed cheques for staff salaries bounced. Client files had disappeared.

Asked what she would say to Hale, if she was able to speak to him, Perry said she would ask him, “Why,why,why? Why, when you knew how I panicked about money? You knew I would get in a state and bring you whatever money I could get together to invest.”

“He knew everything about me. He was a friend. I believed he had my financial welfare at heart. I still want to see Mike Hale face to face.”

Perry said the first hint she got that there was something amiss was when she was sleeping after feeling jet-lagged from her flight from the UK to SA, when her sister woke her up to say “Guess what?” She then heard the bombshell that Hale had left the country and there was money missing.

“It has been terrible. It never leaves you. Everything has gone up in price. I thought I would be comfortable in my retirement and would have retired at 60. Instead, I worked as a nurse until I was 72. I shouldn’t be going through this. I am counting out my money each month, thinking I have to pay this and pay that. It has been very traumatic. I have battled a lot of anger, but I can talk about it and that helps. ”

Perry is scathing of the police investigation into Hale’s disappearance. “The police could have had him back long ago.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  crime

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