On a Saturday in February three years ago, Coleen Greenwood should have married her sweetheart in a no-expense-spared ceremony at a stately home in the north-east of England.
James Scott, her fiancée, had arranged it all. Months earlier, he had romantically presented her with a little black book headed ‘Coleen Scott Wedding Diary’.
Inside it were details of everything from dress fittings to the flights and accommodation for the honeymoon in Las Vegas. And the plans didn’t end there.
The rugged firefighter was not only brave — he told his girlfriend how he had once jumped from the window of a burning house, clutching a child — he was also rich.
He had been negotiating to buy a £1.5 million house for his wife-to-be and their young son, and planned to launch an upmarket property business. Other plans included setting up a boutique restaurant and hotel with the involvement of celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay.
Coleen Greenwood, left, and the man she thought was James Scott, real name Greg Wilson, were due to get married three years ago. She found out his whole persona was a lie
‘I believed I was sharing my life with a wonderful, caring man, a true hero who risked his life as a firefighter,’ 46-year-old Coleen recalled this week.
But her dream would turn into a nightmare — the full details of which the Daily Mail can reveal here for the first time.
The wedding never took place. On the day itself, Coleen discovered that everything about the man she had planned to spend the rest of her life with was a lie.
‘James Scott’ didn’t exist. Her boyfriend was really Greg Wilson. And the 39-year-old wasn’t a firefighter, he was an unemployed soldier.
For four days of every week, Wilson would leave Coleen at their home in Chester-le-Street, County Durham, claiming his work with the Fire Service meant he had to stay away. In fact, he was driving 30 miles to Darlington to be with his long-suffering wife of 13 years.
Nor was Wilson from a wealthy background. His mother wasn’t a sports agent living in the South of France, as he claimed. She was a retired nursery worker from Sunderland.
A no-expense-spared wedding had been planned at this luxury wedding venue, Wynyard Hall, near Billingham
Wilson had doctored bank statements to show he had millions in his accounts, all part of his elaborate scheme which involved getting Greenwood and her sister to give him money
‘I believed I was sharing my life with a wonderful, caring man,’ Greenwood said
Wilson had doctored a bank statement to show £2 million in his account — all part of a trick to get Coleen and her sister to hand over more than £50,000 to him. Other businesses were also conned.
But that wasn’t the worst. As the scale of the deception emerged, Coleen realised she had also been tricked into having his child — Wilson lied about having had a vasectomy.
The birth nearly ended up killing Coleen and son Charlie, who was born prematurely.
Which makes what happened even worse. Because when Wilson’s lies finally unravelled, he simply handed over the baby and drove off, saying he would be ‘back in a minute’.
It would be the last time Coleen and her son would ever see him.
Now, as Wilson starts a six-year jail term for crimes the judge at Durham Crown Court called ‘jaw-droppingly’ cruel and arrogant, she has revealed how the lies ruined her life and cast a shadow over that of her son.
‘One of the hardest things I will have to do is, in the future, to sit down with my wonderful son and explain the horrendous truth about his father’s deception,’ she said.
Wilson claimed to be a firefighter when the couple first met online in 2014. He told his girlfriend how he had once jumped from the window of a burning house, clutching a child
Tellingly, to this day, Greenwood still refers to Wilson by the false name she always knew him by, but will one day have to explain to her son that her father was not who he said he was
Like many modern romances, this one began online, when the pair met on match.com in September 2014.
Wilson used the profile ‘Firefighter J’, claiming his name was James Scott and that he worked for County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service. It was a pretence he would maintain until February 2017, fooling not only Coleen but her family and friends as well.
She was seven years his senior, worked for a lettings agency and had two broken marriages behind her.
Wilson would use his job to justify why he couldn’t be with her all the time, claiming his shift patterns kept him at the fire station.
In fact, he was living a double life.
Born in Sunderland, he had actually married in 2002. He and his wife had three sons, the family initially living in Germany, where he was based with the Army.
‘We were young and happy and life was fun but then everything changed,’ his wife, who asked not to be named, said last night, speaking exclusively to the Daily Mail.
‘He did one six-month tour of Iraq but was later medically discharged suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He walked away from the Army with compensation payments of around £100,000 — and he burned his way through that in a year.
‘It all went on himself, much of it to pay off debts. But he liked flashy clothes, designer watches and smart cars. He liked to play the big man. That money gave him the taste for a flash lifestyle and he did everything he could to play at being successful, when in fact he did nothing and never earned a penny of what he had.’
She added: ‘He is a narcissist who gets a kick from thinking he is cleverer than everyone else, that he can fool anyone because he’s the smartest guy around. In fact he’s just cruel and sickeningly selfish.’
With a taste for the high life and no way to fund it, Wilson told his wife he had got a job working nights at a golf centre. In fact, he had Coleen in his sights.
He admitted to his new girlfriend that he had been married in the past, but claimed his ex-wife had moved to Texas with their children.
Wilson claimed to have had a vasectomy, but this was also a lie. Greenwood ended up becoming pregnant, which she did not want. The pregnancy nearly killer her and the baby
He also boasted about his bravery at work. Tellingly, to this day, Coleen still refers to him by the false name she always knew him by.
‘I heard a story of James jumping out of the window of a burning building with a small child, saving his life and breaking his back during the fall,’ she would recall in a statement prepared for the court hearing earlier this week. I even saw a thank- you card from the boy, and texts of gratitude from the child’s parents.’
Soon those lies spread into their personal lives. In 2015 Coleen fell pregnant and it was agreed that she would have a termination.
‘I have children from a previous relationship and felt my family was complete,’ she said in the statement. ‘James decided to have a vasectomy, as I was fearful of falling pregnant again. James told me he attended hospital to have this done. I saw him after the operation and saw bruising and dressings on his penis.
‘I was also shown a medical report which showed he now had nil sperm count. Two months after seeing this report I fell pregnant again.
‘The feeling of disbelief was staggering. I was horrified people would think I’d been unfaithful. But James took the news well, stating there was a one in 200 chance of pregnancy after a vasectomy.’
But the ‘miracle’ pregnancy did not go well. ‘My waters broke at 23 weeks and I needed an emergency C-section,’ said Coleen. ‘I nearly died and my baby was put on a life-support machine. We were told there was a chance he wouldn’t make it.’
Their baby boy, born in February 2016, was named Charlie and given the made-up surname Scott.
Further lies came thick and fast.
The Christmas before, Wilson had proposed, presenting heavily pregnant Coleen with their ‘wedding diary’. The plan was to marry in December 2016 at Wynyard Hall, a hotel and wedding venue in County Durham.
Their futures seemingly cemented, Wilson then began defrauding her.
Knowing Coleen had always wanted to run a wine bar, in March 2016 he floated the idea of buying a property on the Newcastle Quayside, to be called ‘@Scotts’. Coleen’s sister Karen Crear was also to be involved.
Wilson talked about buying this bar on Newcastle’s Quayside to turn it into a boutique hotel and bar
Wilson began by forging a bank statement showing his mother had transferred £2 million into his account. Emails were exchanged between his mother’s business manager and her accountant. Neither existed. As prosecutor Richard Herrmann observed, Wilson was ‘having email conversations with himself’.
Coleen viewed the site on four occasions. Each time the plans became more elaborate — Gordon Ramsay, Wilson told her, was going to run the restaurant; singer Sam Smith would headline the opening party. Other businesses were dragged into the fraud, doing marketing work for which they would never be paid.
Next, in August 2016, Wilson proposed that the three of them should set up a property company called Gemini. It would manage properties he claimed his mother owned, and others they would buy.
He knew the idea would appeal to the sisters — Coleen worked for a lettings agency and her sister owned properties in the area. So he drew up a list of properties he claimed his mother owned that would be transferred to Gemini.
It was fabricated — as were the tenants said to be living in them. One was footballer Jack Rodwell, who at the time played for Sunderland. Again, other businesses were dragged into the fraud.
To help get the projects off the ground, the sisters handed over more than £57,000 to Wilson. Both also quit their jobs.
At the same time, Wilson was negotiating to buy a new £1.5 million house on a development linked to Ramside Hall, another luxury hotel in Durham. So convincing was he, the developers gave him free lifetime membership of the linked gym, spa and golf course.
Another fraud involved Newcastle Falcons rugby club, which gave him exclusive membership in exchange for sponsorship money that never materialised.
Some money that did change hands was £10,000 from Coleen’s sister in December 2016. It was supposed to go towards the new businesses but instead Wilson blew it on a Mini Cooper.
By then the couple’s wedding was fast approaching — a big problem, as Wilson was still married.
He then claimed to be suffering from suspected testicular cancer, and the wedding was put back from December to February 2017.
As the date neared, Wilson said he was off to America to pick up his daughters so they could attend. Another lie. When he ‘returned’ four days before the wedding, he tearfully told Coleen his ex had banned them from coming.
By now deeply suspicious, Coleen’s sister started to dig into Wilson’s background, discovering that the wedding had in fact never been booked at the venue.
On what was intended to be the wedding day, Ms Crear confronted Wilson as he and her sister came home from the supermarket. Wilson unloaded the shopping and handed baby Charlie to one of Coleen’s daughters. He then got into the car, saying he would be back in a minute, and drove away. He never returned.
The police were informed and Wilson was arrested.
‘In my 23 years of policing, I have never encountered a man as manipulative as Greg Wilson,’ said Detective Constable Chris Bentham. ‘He is a compulsive liar who has shown absolutely no remorse’
In January, he pleaded guilty to eight counts of fraud, two of forgery and one each of converting criminal property and making a false statement about a birth. His fraud offences involved sums of just over £100,000 in total.
‘The shock, hurt and disbelief I’ve felt is extremely hard to put into words,’ Coleen would tell the judge before sentencing.
‘As the reality set in that James Scott, the man I loved, never existed, it felt like a bereavement. These emotions were counterbalanced by the increasing feeling of stupidity and humiliation I felt.
‘Telephone calls and letters arrived, chasing debts that James had incurred, and I found myself explaining the situation over and over again . . . I felt a complete fool.’
Some will question how on earth Wilson got away with it for so long. But investigating officer Detective Constable Chris Bentham said he was as convincing a conman as he had ever come across.
‘In my 23 years of policing, I have never encountered a man as manipulative as Greg Wilson,’ he said. ‘He is a compulsive liar who has shown absolutely no remorse.
His first wife agrees: ‘People will wonder how I didn’t realise for a long time what he was like. But he was so manipulative and controlling, I didn’t realise how badly he was wrecking my life.
‘His treatment of me and the boys has been horrific. They are glad he has gone to jail. I never want to see or hear from him again.’
It is a sentiment clearly shared by several of the women in his life.