WARWICK University has abandoned plans to award a posthumous degree to the late Coventry council deputy leader Phil Townshend amid ongoing proceedings concerning allegations he defrauded a vulnerable elderly woman out of her home.
In July, the Coventry Observer, some of Mr Townshend’s relations, and members of the public raised questions with the university over its decision to award an Honorary Doctor of Laws on July 23 for the former politician, University Hospital chair and lawyer’s service to Coventry.
Days later, the university announced the award would be postponed until the new year following a request from the late Mr Townshend’s daughter, Kistie Logan.
Ms Logan now says she requested the award be abandoned altogether for the safety and security of the family, which the university confirmed it had accepted.
With private proceedings still outstanding, BBC Coventry and Warwickshire last month reported on the complaint letters which this newspaper referred to in July, following a Freedom of Information request. The university has chosen not to publish the complaint letters on its website.
Some of the letters suggested the award would bring the university into disrepute. The BBC noted another had stated Private Eye magazine had been among publications following up the allegations about the alleged fraud and financial matters.
The Coventry Observer exclusively revealed last November that, before and since his death at his Allesley Village home in October last year, Mr Townshend faced police and other legal investigations into allegations he abused the trust of a sick woman when acquiring her home in 2011 and other assets, when he had ‘powers of attorney’ over her financial affairs.
We revealed those powers of attorney had been removed with a new ‘court deputy’ for the alleged victim assigned before his death.
We also revealed his firm in liquidation, Townshends LLP, still owed more than £300,000 to H.M Revenue and Customs and other creditors years after its insolvency, and his personal liabilities to the company of £50,000 remained unpaid. Liquidation proceedings continue.
While police said earlier this year their fraud investigation had ended, legal inquiries are still ongoing with a view to the alleged victim recovering her home, where she still lives.
An application has been lodged with the Land Registry using a statutory declaration, which followed private court proceedings.
The application alleges Mr Townshend obtained signed blank cheques from his victim, and blank letters with her signature on them, which he used to fraudulently acquired the property and a mortgage for it, without her knowledge.
We revealed in July another senior family member had raised concerns, on behalf of others, with the university, including about the impact of the scheduled degree award while legal issues remained ongoing, noting the impact on the frail ‘elderly victim’.
A coroner in April ruled Mr Townshend, aged 57, died of natural causes. Much of the inquest centred on whether a cocktail of painkilling and antidepressant drugs he had taken, including morphine and extremely high toxic levels of Amitriptyline, were a contributory factor.
The BBC in June reported it had found the allegations raised by the Coventry Observer were serious.