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Lara Woods writes of how her mum Carolyn got involved with one of Europe's most-wanted men and ended up losing everything.
It was the morning of my 27th birthday when my mother called to tell me she was going on a date with a man called Mark. She'd met him the previous day when he'd walked into the Cotswolds boutique where she worked. He tried on a jacket, and charmed her into giving him her phone number.
Mum hadn't had her head turned by a man in an awfully long time. She sounded so excited, it was hard not be happy for her.
A few days later, Mum called me again. Their date had been a roaring success, and Mum told me that she was sure they'd have a relationship and move in together. She had accepted my father's proposal of marriage after only six dates and their marriage lasted 23 years, but even I was taken aback by how quickly things were developing with Mark. I could see there was romance in this recklessness, though.
My parents had divorced in 2003 after growing gradually apart. My Mum, Carolyn, remained in Buckinghamshire until my younger sister and I had finished university, and then decided to move to Tetbury to start afresh.
She was renting a cottage and keeping money from the sale of her house in her bank account until she was ready to buy a new home. She was 54 years' old, living in a new area, with a new job and some new friends. It was the perfect time for a man like Mark to waltz into her life.
On the surface, he appeared to be an extraordinarily wealthy businessman, living a glamorous, jet-set lifestyle. What we know now is everything was a lie. Rather, he was a conman called Mark Acklom (he told us his surname was Conway).
Mark whisked mum off her feet. He took her to Harrods for lavish shopping trips and showered her with expensive gifts. I met up with Mum a few weeks into the relationship and she was simply glowing. Mark had arranged for her to have a haircut at Nicky Clarke's salon and she was dressed in some very elegant and expensive new clothes. My boyfriend asked her if she'd actually had a facelift. "No," she said, "I'm in love..."
Within months, Mum had left the boutique, given up her rented cottage and moved in with Mark to The Circus, one of Bath's most prestigious addresses.
He claimed he owned the house, but it later transpired that he had paid a year's rent upfront with money he'd "borrowed" off Mum.
My sister and I first visited in Easter 2012, along with a few other family members. Mark was supposed to arrive on the Saturday night, but didn't show up until the Sunday morning. He was well-turned out, in expensive designer jeans and a crisp white shirt, sitting with a cup of black coffee, a can of Coca-Cola and smoking a cigarette.
After the briefest introduction, the bragging started - about his wealth and power, about how he could survive on just three hours' sleep a night, and that he could shut down the UK economy with one phone call. He claimed to have been working in the World Trade Center on 9/11, and that he had once had a heart attack, which was "fun" ("I woke up in hospital, pulled the wires out and went straight back to work").
When I asked what he did for a living, he wouldn't be drawn, saying only that "I play with the banks' money".
Later, he told us he was once pulled over by the police for speeding at 200mph on the motorway, only to receive a grovelling apology from the head of the constabulary for wasting his time.