Three women duped by a serial conman have spoken out about the heartbreaking betrayal and destruction he caused to their lives.
Hamish Earle McLaren, 48, from Sydney’s eastern suburbs, has been behind bars since his arrest in July 2017 after he fleeced $70million worldwide from dozens of victims by pretending to be an investment fund manager.
McLaren pleaded guilty to 17 counts of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception and one count of knowingly dealing with proceeds of crime last September.
He will be sentenced next month after he conned almost $8million from 15 Australian victims between 2011 and 2017.
Two of his victims, ex-wife Bec Rosen and Tracy Hall, McLaren’s last partner before he was arrested have since become best friends and call themselves the ‘Hamish Survivors’ Club’.
Conman Hamish McLaren (pictured) has scammed dozens of victims, including 15 in Australia
‘It’s good to be able to share stories and have a laugh. Somebody else who was in a relationship with him and went through what she went through. I felt like I wasn’t on my own anymore,’ Ms Hall told Channel Seven’s Sunday Night.
When asked whether they felt like victims, Ms Rosen replied: ‘No, not at all. What do we call ourselves?
‘Survivors,’ Ms Hall replied.
The single mum fell in love with market trader Max Tavita on a dating app in March 2016.
She didn’t have a clue his real name was Hamish McLaren until 16 months into their whirlwind romance relationship when he was arrested, just days after they’d returned from a NSW north coast mini-break.
By then, Ms Hall had given him $320,000 of her life savings.
McLaren later called Ms Hall from Silverwater Jail, followed by a barrage of love letters declaring his love for her.
‘He’s dead,’ Ms Hall said.
‘He was somebody who was completely fabricated and made up. He actually doesn’t exist. None of it was real.’
Two of McLaren’s victims, ex-wife Bec Rosen (left) and his most recent partner Tracy Hall (right) are now best friends who catch up at least once a week
Bec Rosen fell in love with McLaren when she moved to Blueys Beach on the NSW north coast in 2008.
He quickly became a father like figure to her three young sons and the couple married two years later.
McLaren then told his wife he returning to his old job as an investment trader in Sydney, and rented a waterside apartment.
She had no idea she was footing the bill for much of her husband’s luxurious life, including a Porsche.
Ms Rosen eventually left the marriage in 2013 after a horrifying admission from her son’s 16-year-old girlfriend that she was having an affair with McLaren.
Karen Lowe (pictured) also fell for Hamish McLaren’s charms and was conned out of $1.15million
‘I’d see them having a coffee at the café together and I’d go, “Why is it Jack’s girlfriend sitting with my husband?” she said.
‘Hamish would rock up in some mid-life crisis type of car and she’d be there, this beautiful 16-year-old, and then they burned off down the street.’
She didn’t lose money, despite McLaren forging her signature to take out $450,000 worth of loans.
McLaren’s next victim after Ms Rosen was Karen Lowe, a recent divorcee who got ownership of a $11million harbourside mansion built in 1890 as part of the settlement.
She desperately needed a $200,000 loan to repair the leaky roof.
Enter McLaren, who convinced an unsuspecting Ms Lowe he could get her a $1million loan and that she could invest what she did not spend on the repairs.
‘I’ll never forget his face when he walked into my kitchen for the first time,’ Ms Lowe recalled.
‘It was like a child in a sweet shop. He was like, “Oh, wow. He said You don’t have to worry. I’m here to take care of you”.’
McLaren pleaded guilty to 17 counts of dishonestly obtaining a financial advantage by deception and one count of knowingly dealing with proceeds of crime last September
She still remembers the day she’s realised she’d been scammed $1.15million not long after she returned from a trip to New York, which she claims he paid for from her money.
She now can’t look at his photo.
‘I still feel it sometimes, that pit-of-the-stomach sick feeling. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that,’ Ms Lowe said.
‘It’s humiliating. I feel humiliated and very silly over how I fell for it all.’
She would have lost her home if it wasn’t for a wealthy and kind neighbour who bought out her mortgage, who Ms Lowe will pay back when she sells the house.
Ms Rosen, Ms Hall and Ms Lowe weren’t the only victims scammed by McLaren.
It’s estimated he’s conned $70 million worldwide, much of it still unaccounted for.
‘I do think there’s money somewhere,’ Ms Hall said.
‘Many, many more millions. He used to say to me, “Go to the police, and I’ll just sit on the beach for the rest of my life with the money”.’
Fashion designer Lisa Ho was also scammed but unlike many victims, got some money back
One Australian retired couple were fleeced $1,712,500 and were left without superannuation and savings, according to agreed facts tendered to the court.
Fashion designer Lisa Ho paid McLaren $850,000 of her superannuation in late 2011 after the pair were unwittingly introduced by her ex-husband.
But unlike many victims, Ms Ho was able to recover $500,000 after she launched legal proceedings.
‘I’m glad he’s behind bars and starting to feel the punishment he dumped on so many trusting people,’ she said.