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Major general accused of swindling £50k 'was reported by Colonel'

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 05/03/2021 Jack Elsom For Mailonline
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An Army general accused of swindling nearly £50,000 in private school fees was reported by a colonel concerned he was never at home, a court martial heard today.

Major General Nick Welch, 54, allegedly claimed his wife Charlotte was living at the  London residence he moved into upon staring a top job at the Ministry of Defence.

It meant he was eligible for an Army allowance towards his children's education that is given to servicemen on remote assignments, provided that the family is living with them. 

But Col Jeremy Lamb, who lived on the same street in Putney, told the court he hardly ever saw the family at the home.

Prosecutors say Ms Welsh instead spent most of her time at their £800,000 Dorset home while their children went to nearby boarding schools.

Maj Gen Welsh is the most senior officer to face a court martial since 1815 when a Lieutenant General was convicted during the Napoleonic wars. 

He denies one count of fraud relating to £48,000 in education allowance over a period of 15 months from December 2015 to February 2017. 

a man wearing a hat and sunglasses: Major General Nick Welch, 54, allegedly claimed his wife Charlotte was living at the new London residence he got upon staring a job at the Ministry of Defence © Provided by Daily Mail Major General Nick Welch, 54, allegedly claimed his wife Charlotte was living at the new London residence he got upon staring a job at the Ministry of Defence

At Bulford Military Court in Wiltshire today, Col Lamb said he became 'frustrated' that the four-bedroom London property appeared to be empty while other families were living in smaller flats.

Col Lamb, the Commanding Officer of the First Fusiliers, lived in the street in Putney with his Army doctor wife while working as the military assistant to the armed forces minister. 

He described the street's residents as sociable military families who often met for dinner parties and Friday afternoon drinks outside in the sun.  

But of Maj Gen Welch's house, he said : 'I never saw the two adults that lived there.

'I only found out it was Maj Gen Welch in the run up to my interview for my statement, I never met his wife.'

Col Lamb, having had conversations with other neighbours, who he described as 'irate', raised concerns with an officer who he knew and worked within Army housing in February 2016, three months after Maj Gen Welch and his wife were supposed to have moved in.

a man standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: Maj Gen Welsh is the most senior officer to face a court martial since 1815 when a Lieutenant General was convicted during the Napoleonic wars © Provided by Daily Mail Maj Gen Welsh is the most senior officer to face a court martial since 1815 when a Lieutenant General was convicted during the Napoleonic wars

Col Lamb also raised concerns about another house, but that property was lived in by an officer serving unaccompanied and they moved out shortly after.

Col Lamb said: 'It was obvious that two of the houses were only being occupied during the week. They were clearly not occupied at weekends.

'It was frustrating as some of my neighbours were people living with their children in flats and then there were the people in these houses who could have had more appropriate housing.

'I thought it was really odd because the way in which the houses were allocated was that there was single weekly commuters living in houses and families with children in flats.'

He also said: 'I didn't know when they [Maj Gen Welch and Mrs Welch] moved in, normally there are big trucks moving people in but that didn't happen. To be fair, I didn't see it happen.. other people didn't see it.'

In an email to the Army officer, he said: 'I have never seen them, the lights are on from Monday to Thursday, but that's it.

'I don't have anything on them [information about them], but that's kind of the point, if they actually lived there I would know more.'

Col Lamb said after he raised concerns initially, lights were on a 'bit more frequently' and sometimes a car was left on the drive over the weekend.

He also said a lava lamp was put in the window of one of it's single-bedrooms, which faced the street.

Lieutenant Colonel Julian Lentaigne, an Army doctor, lived opposite Maj Gen Welch with his pregnant spouse and their two children.

Lt Col Lentaigne said: 'I was aware that we had a high-ranking general on the patch.'

The officer said he exchanged pleasantries with Mrs Welch after she and her husband moved in.

He added: 'I saw Maj Gen Welch on a few occasions, he was often getting in and out of a staff car with a driver present.

'My recollection is that I saw him half a dozen times. I had exchanged pleasantries with him, shook his hand a few times and made small talk.'

Maj Gen Welch and his family had been living in Gloucestershire in 2015 when he was appointed Assistant Chief of the General Staff. 

As part of the £120,000 role, the father-of-three became the most senior officer at MoD HQ and had to relocate to the four-bed family quarters home in Putney. 

Speaking at court, Lt Col Lentaigne said he noticed 'less activity' at the house a short time after Maj Gen Welch and Mrs Welch moved in.

He also said: 'It is one of the nicest patches in London. That's because of its location to the main building for commuting, it had nice houses that are well-appointed and maintained, and it has a good social life too.'

Lt Col Lentaigne said he was 'not particularly mindful' to enquire about the occupancy situation of a high-ranking General and was not concerned about it, but said that he was not familiar with CEA rules. 

Maj Gen Welch, who has now retired, denies one count of fraud. 

Continuity of Education Allowance (CEA) is offered to soldiers to help fund 90 per cent of their child's education when they relocate on assignment, as long as their family live with them, a practice known as 'serving accompanied'. 

One child was sent to the £37,000 a year Clayesmore School while another went to the £22,500 Hanford School. 

The trial continues.

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