A man who has been remanded in custody in London after making threats to kill Prince Harry is a well-known con artist from Northern Ireland, writes Colin Breen
Ashraf Islam (30) appeared in Uxbridge Magistrates Court in England on May 25 after turning himself in to police for making threats to kill the third-in-line to the throne the day after the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich.
As a result of his threats security was tightened up around Prince Harry, who has served in Afghanistan, after Scotland Yard found Islam’s laptop contained a history of having visited firearms and terrorist websites.
The Belfast Telegraph understands that Islam is from Bangor and was formerly known as Mark Townley. Townley, who has a long history as a conman, was remanded in custody after pleading guilty to the charges.
The Co Down man has also been known as Mark Hamill and Antonio Mendez and is now using the name Ashraf Islam following a decision to become a Muslim when he fled Northern Ireland over his latest scam.
Townley, using the name Antonio Mendez, was first convicted of fraud in Liverpool when he advertised bodyguard courses with the guarantee of security work in Iraq. Dozens of former soldiers paid a £250 registration fee, but when they turned up at an isolated Welsh beach they found there was no course and no sign of Townley.
He returned to Northern Ireland and set up a firm called National Task Force and proceeded to rip off youth, gymnastic and boxing clubs of thousands with the promise of mini buses and equipment. As his cheques bounced he fled to Dublin.
Once there he set up shop selling topless photographs to newspapers which quickly evolved into a ‘model agency’, but he fled north again after being threatened by creditors. He then set up office on the Dublin Road in Belfast offering courses in photography. Twenty six people signed up to ‘Mark Hamill’ paying £150 each. When the people turned up on a Monday he was nowhere to be seen.
The police were involved and he fled back to Dublin as a Muslim. A bench warrant was issued when he failed to appear at court in relation to the fraud. Now posing as Ashraf Islam he joined a Muslim group protesting at the GPO in Dublin. He was given a cheque for €7,000 (£6,000), but it bounced.
With nowhere left to go he handed himself into police in Belfast who held two warrants for him for fraud and breach of an ant-molestation order. He was subsequently jailed for six months.
Once released he was living in Bangor, but was later at the centre of a blasphemy row when he announced plans to release a movie, ‘Jesus Christ Pornstar’, with him playing the title role.
As the plans fell apart and debts mounted he fled once again this time to England were he has been arrested and charged.