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The Geoff Bell Story, self-made millionaire defrauded of £1.25 million

The Geoff Bell Story - an Algarve millionaire defrauded of £1.25 millionPART 1. This is a local story that happened in Almancil. Millionaire, Geoff Bells chartered accountant invested £1,250,000 into the Village Development Project and he never saw a penny in return.

It is the cautionary tale of how a farm worker turned millionaire was defrauded of his investment in Algarve property. Geoff made his money by revolutionising truck drivers’ accommodation, by building Carlisle Truck Inn and running it for 10 years. He built up a fleet of 15 Volvo F86s running night and day and helped forge the modern-day road haulage industry. Then he was defrauded by a chartered accountant, Michael James Bland, a professional fraudster from Carlisle.

Michael James Bland, a partner at Dodd & Co. Carlisle, Cumbria invested the money on Geoff's behalf. No repayments were ever made, so Geoff had no alternative but to take the case to court.

After many years, and 25 court cases against Mr Bland, Geoff was awarded judgment of £6.2 million to be paid by fraudster Mr Bland. He has not paid one penny to Geoff, instead Bland lives a life of luxury somewhere in the Algarve.

Geoff tells his tale to let the locals in The Village and Almancil know that Mr Bland reaped all the vast profit from the project with Geoff's hard earned money.  

Geoff's story is available at Amazon.co.uk, in paperback and on Kindle.

The Geoff Bell Story - PART 1

I was born in Little Bampton, about 11 miles west ofwas born in Little Bampton, about 11 miles west of Carlisle, in 1939. Little Bampton was a small village withseven farms, nine small houses, a State Management Pub,the Tam O Shanter Inn, and no shop. My father was ablacksmith and his workshop was at one end of the pub and our small house was at the other end. My mother didwork for the local farmers; so we were never short of food, with the farmers dropping of potatoes and vegetables and my mother always cooking. But I soon learned that moneywas in very short supply.

I’m telling this story to give the young ones an idea of what can be done from leaving school at 15 to work on afarm for £2, 7/6 per week, from starting with absolutely nomoney, to owning a fleet of 15 Volvo articulated trucks, aRolls Royce and with cash in the bank. I did this by 1969 atthe age of 30 and I had no loans or borrowings; everything was paid for.

By 1977, at the age of 37, I had built and opened the first purpose-built Truck Stop, which I named Carlisle Truck Inn; it became a success overnight with over 200 trucks per night and still all without any loans or borrowings. By 1987, at the age 47, I had sold the Carlisle Truck Innto BP Oil and I had become a millionaire.

In this unbelievable story I will tell you how my trustedchartered accountant defrauded me of my fortune; andhow, after more than 25 court cases, I did get a judgementon him for £6.2 million.

There were five in our family, with me being theThere were five in our family, with me being theyoungest one; my two older sisters were married andgone; my older brother was in the army and my otherbrother was about 18 months older then me, but we weredifferent.

I would always be working on building my four-wheeledcarts in my dad’s workshop and then testing them outdown the two very steep hills called Lanshaw we had justaround the corner.I don’t know if my mother and father planned ourfamily but it sure worked. Our small house was only bigenough for the four of us, being my brother myself, mam and dad; my other siblings had left the house.

On entering the house, there was a small room used forboth dining and as a sitting room with a fire grate burningcoal or firewood and fitted with an oven and crane-typearm for hanging the big kettle on. This big kettle was usedfor washing up and filling the old tin bath we had to use to bathe in. There was no electric or main sewer in the village, so we had to go outside up the side of the house to the dry toilet.

The house had a very tiny kitchen and I now wonder howmy mother made such good food in it. To go upstairs from the living area, we had to pass through my parents’ small bedroom and up the stairs to two small bedrooms. My brother and I stayed in one room and the other was for my other brother when he was on leave from the army.

My friends were Eric and Ernie Miller in the village and we did spend a lot of time together. They had three other brothers older than them. The family had a farm but only one son would work at home while the others were working away.

School was at Kirkbampton two and a half miles away. We used to cycle there every day, come rain, hail or snow. When we were 11 years old we got the bus from Kirkbampton to Burgh By Sands secondary school, but still had to cycle the two and a half miles each way.

When I was about eight years old I started going to Mr Joe Rudd’s farm. It was a family run farm with Mr and Mrs Rudd, two daughters and the son; another two daughters were married and gone.

I got very interested in the two Fordson Tractors they had so I would go at nights and Saturdays and by the time I was 10 years old I could handle those tractors in the fields.

In all the school holidays I would be on the farm, and they would take me to the fields with the tractor to plough with the three furrow Ransom plough. I became a specialist at it, getting the furrows dead straight and making perfect finishings.

When not at school I spent all my time at the farm I wasnot interested in sport only tractors.

When I was about 13 years old I took on a paper round. The Nestlé milk collection truck would drop the papers off for me at about 7.30am on Sunday mornings and I would load up my News of the World paper bag which was very heavy. My first stop was Ploughlands – three farms and a cottage – then onto Longrigg – one farm, two houses – then head up to Oughterby, dropping papers at the schoolhouse on the way past.

Oughterby had quite a few farms and houses and all the kids were going to the same school as me so I knew them all. Next I went onto Fisher Gill farm, home of Tommy Varyand his brother-in-law Tommy Gillespie; they were great fun and always trying to wind me up and hold me back.

Next I was on my way up to Aikton and I was dropping papers off at Water Flosh on the way past. Aikton was quite a big village with lots of farms and houses; after delivering there I had to return home to reload.

After a fast reload and delivering in our village, I then went down West Lane to West Field House farm, which was the Patinson’s farm. The son, Stan Pat as we called him, was well-known for buying all kinds of machinery at Lanark monthly sales.

Going down the lane to West Field House farm was about quarter of a mile with wide grass verges at each side; now you are picturing lovely mowed grass each side, but surprise! It was completely covered with old tractors and machinery that would not work.

Stan Pat’s father was a great man who would grow some 40 acres of potatoes each year, and in the October school holidays he would have his potatoes harvested. He would collect pickers from the local villages, including me and my friends and many women. We would pick in pairs and we all had a measured distance to collect into wire baskets, and Tot Graham with the horse and cart would collect and empty the baskets into the cart and then he would tip the
cart into a big long heap. This was a non-stop operation which worked very well. The biggest problem was that in the morning it took Stan Pat, the son, half an hour to get the tractor going. It was an old Fordson and what we could not understand was that all the tractors down the lane were also all non-starters.

The pay for picking was 10 shillings per day, plus they supplied the food; this was very good money in 1952 we were all there for one week.

Back on my paper round, I’d be down the lane onto the road to my next delivery, which was Barnes farm next door to the Patinson’s, then onto Biglands, another village made up of mostly farms with a few houses. Quite a lot of these farmers were Grahams and Bimsons – all very nice people who I got to know very well and I still see them around today and have a word with them.

After Biglands I went to my last village Gamelsby, again made up of mostly farms with two or three houses, and again there were lots of Grahams families; I became friends with the likes of Allan Graham, Ritz Graham and his brother Nory.

Another well-known individual in the village was Tish Graham and his brother Ed. I could number many more and they were all good to me. But my favourite in Gamelsby was my last delivery at the McCracken’s sweet shop, where I used to load up my paper bag with sweets and custard creams, dropping sweet papers all the way back home.

After leaving Gamelsby I would pass the fields where Tish Graham was growing vegetables to sell in Carlisle market. I would park my bike inside the field away from view of the road and pick the pea pods into my big newspaper bag; pea pods were my favourite, I loved them.

The next Sunday, when delivering in Gamelsby, Tish asked me: Were you steeling my pea pods last week? No it was not me. You are telling lies, you left a track of empty pea pods from here to Little Bampton. I was guilty as charged.

My father was very good man and a well-known Cumberland Westmorland wrestler in his early days. He was retired from that but was now invited to the local sports in the area to be a judge at these events. The local village sports were held on Saturdays in the summer.

From when I was five years old until eight, my Dad would take me with him. We would go on our bikes and he would take the lead and I would follow him close behind. On those days, it was very interesting to see all the sports being played.

When I was about 14, my older brother Reg left school and went to work at Mr Baird’s big dairy farm at Wampool near Kirkbride. Mr and Mrs Baird had eight children – four boys and four girls – but only one son John had left school, so they needed extra help until the next son Gilbert left school.

I became very good friends with the family and used to bike down there on Sunday afternoons. A few of us we would go around to Kirkbride and other places. I left school at 15 years old and got a job on the farm at £2.7s 6d per week and I lived in on the farm. The family was very good to me and the food was excellent, all home grown and fresh.

Mr Rudd was a very clever man. He could do anything and I learned a lot from him. Everything had to be done correct. For instance, if I erected a fence which was not quite level, he would say Come on old son and we will have a look at that fence and put it right. So it was all done in a very smooth way that made me make sure everything I did was as near perfect as possible and this stayed with me all of my life.

Mr Rudd was like the local vet. He assisted other farmers with help on livestock and also with butchering pigs in the season all around the area – four a day on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. He was bringing back lots of black pudding and sausages of all kinds. He would also make gates, then put the hinges into the stone gate posts with melted lead. Mr Rudd’s only son Lorry was a strong man, always working and very cleaver also. They were mainly dairy farmers but also with quite a few sheep to breed lambs.

Every cow had a name. Lorry could go out into the fields and tell you which cow was the mother of every offspring; also he could go among the sheep and he knew who the mother was of all the grown-up lambs.

Mr Rudd was unbelievable. At night he would go around one or two fields with his car checking the sheep or livestock, and on his way back home he would pull up at the pub and have a half beer and whisky with water and get on the piano and sing – a multi-talented man.

Read PART 2 next week.

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