— Serial lover Simon Reid had a story to fit every occasion in worming his way into a string of women’s hearts — and, eventually, their pocketbooks. To Nicolla Hillary, he was an international businessman; to Laura Buckingham, a drug and alcohol counselor; and to Jo Ward, a lay preacher and professional rock climber.
And to tug their heartstrings, the 44-year-old Englishman threw in some sob stories. He told Ward his father was on life support, and pretended to Buckingham that he was the father of a son who lost both legs and an arm serving in Britain’s Royal Air Force.
But Reid’s web of deceit finally unraveled when the three English ladies learned — thanks to an American blogger who, too, had fallen for Reid’s charms — that they were being strung along simultaneously. The scales fallen from their eyes, the women joined forces, luring Reid to Buckingham’s home and making him come clean in a marathon four-hour grilling that they videotaped for posterity — and police evidence.
Reid’s now serving 30 months in a British prison after being convicted of fraud in taking the ladies for a ride — Jo Ward, for example, got taken for $30,000 after giving Reid access to her credit card. The three British women, appearing live in TODAY’s Studio 1A Thursday along with the jilted American blogger, Andie Nash, admitted to being a bit sheepish for falling for the con man — but also relished the satisfaction of getting Reid to cower like a whipped puppy after they collectively confronted him.
Buckingham told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie that in retrospect, it wasn’t surprising Reid managed a three-year run of stealing hearts — he had a knack for shaping himself into whatever a woman needed most.
“He would spend so long talking to you when you got together; you’d have these really long conversations,” Buckingham said. “I think he was trying to work out what kind of guy you were looking for, what you were interested in, and then he would tailor himself to become that man.”
Jo Ward was just coming to terms with the end of her 22-year marriage when Reid focused his charm on her at her local pub. She told him she wanted to find a new man — religious, possibly divorced with children. Whereupon — surprise, surprise! — Reid told her was a divorced father of two who worked at the local Methodist church.
But he added to the mix by telling Ward he was dealing with heartrending family turmoil. “He cried on my shoulder and told me he had to switch his dad off life support, and then after that, he told me his mum had tried to commit suicide because she was so upset,” Ward told Guthrie.
And he managed to get into Ward’s wallet by telling her he had numerous properties in the United States, and was working in a pub while he liquidated his portfolio. Ward gave him money, the run of her credit card, and even let Reid move into a cottage on her property. She got suspicious, however, when she checked his phone bill and called a few of the numbers he had dialed — including a call to his parents, very much alive and well.
But even as Ward got wise, the other women were also falling prey to Reid’s smooth-talking charms. Buckingham told Guthrie she was in tears hearing about Reid’s son, who was left with only an arm after a helicopter crash while serving in Afghanistan.
“I mean, how can you reject someone when they tell you that?” she told Guthrie. “It just brings out your nurturing instincts, and you just feel so sorry for the guy.”
It took Reid’s love affair with Hillary, however, before his serial dating — and money-grubbing — came to an end. Hillary told Guthrie the line he fed her consisted of “variations of the same theme; his father was dying, his son was in Afghanistan.” But she found the stories just a little too wild to believe, and when her adult daughter told Hillary she thought Reid was a bit strange, Hillary began searching the Internet for more information.
She came across Nash’s blog, in which she called Reid out on the carpet for talking marriage to her after romancing her for months in the U.S., and then hightailing it back to England. And coincidentally, Hillary and Buckingham share the same beautician back in Plymouth — who told each of them their respective boyfriends sounded an awful lot like each other.
Eventually, Ward was located as well, and the women got together at a local watering hole to devise a way of getting Reid to come clean.
Springing the trap
Hillary had a journalist friend ready his camera, and Buckingham invited Reid to her home. In the resulting video, which Guthrie called “priceless,” Reid gives Buckingham a hearty hello before Ward and Hillary enter his view — and he realizes his the jig is up.
The women took turns confronting Reid about his lies, tears mixing with profanities. A sheepish Reid tells the women on camera: “I don’t even know what the truth is anymore, to be honest. I know it’s wrong when I’m doing it; I just don’t seem [able] to stop myself.”
As the grilling ground on, Buckingham said she actually began to feel sorry for the man she had learned only the day before was a con artist. “For all intents and purposes, I was still in a relationship with him,” she told Guthrie. “I still loved him at that point, and I felt really, really guilty for calling the police.”
But call she did, and Reid copped to fraud in court. An attorney for Reid told TODAY, “Simon has cooperated fully with police and pled guilty. He has expressed his remorse and believes his sentence was just.”
Meanwhile, the woman have become celebrities in England for getting the man who betrayed them to admit his sins for the camera. (A fourth British woman, who has been named only as “June,” was also conned and helped in getting justice, but has declined to be interviewed.)
As for Nash, the American, she is pleased that her blog helped serve justice. “I feel vindicated,” she told Guthrie.