‘Gentle’ dad took his own life after falling victim to romance scammers online

A “gentle” dad tragically took his own life after he fell victim to romance fraud.

Chris Leeds, 43, a roofer, of Gwynedd, North Wales was discovered on December 5 by a friend.

An inquest at Caernarfon heard he had been in online contact supposedly with a woman from Africa who seemed to want a relationship then started asking for money, North Wales Live reports.

He sent at least £500 for her flight to Britain but then she sought more cash.

Friend Gareth Evans said Mr Leeds realised he had been scammed but told him about another woman “in Nigeria” called “Paramount.”

He sent money to her too and she was meant to land in Britain two days before his death.

Mr Evans said when he visited Mr Leeds his pal had been upset. He returned later to his home to check on his welfare but Mr Leeds was found hanged.

Family members were at the inquest.

The coroner was told by one woman :”It was a scam. We have been through messages on his phone.”

Coroner Kate Sutherland recorded a conclusion of suicide.

She said: ”He may well have been scammed and had been suffering from embarrassment.

“He appears to have been scammed by a person or persons purporting to be a woman or women from Africa. He was hugely impacted.”

The coroner added: ”This is a truly, truly, tragic case. He had years and years ahead of him. It presents a stark warning about the dangers out there.”

Mr Leeds had been a guitarist with a group who once won a national competition to find Britain’s best “live and unsigned” band.

Mr Evans said he knew Mr Leeds since he was a child.

Earlier this year Action Fraud, the national fraud reporting centre, warned of a 20 per cent increase in bank transfer romance fraud between January and November 2020 compared to the previous year, with the total value of the scams rising by 12 per cent to £18.5 million.

The average loss per victim reported to UK Finance members was £7,850.

But criminals tricked victims into sending them money in many ways, not just via a bank transfer.

Action Fraud had also seen a rise in reports made by members of the public who had fallen victim to romance fraud in 2020, with total reported losses of more than £68 million.

Victims lost money via bank transfer, money transfer, sending fraudsters gift cards and vouchers or presents such as phones and laptops, and by providing them with access to their bank account or card.

An online obituary said: ”Christopher Leeds (Chris) left this world on Saturday 5th of December. A loving son, brother, dad, uncle and friend.

To those close to Chris the loss is immeasurable but so is the love left behind.

“A gentle soul who will be missed by so many.”