A love rat fraudster who stole from his wife’s own family while he was still married to another woman has been jailed for bigamy.
Mitchell Sharpe, 44, met Lisa Buckingham on an online dating site and whisked her off on holiday to Portugal where he proposed to her in March 2014.
But two days after their marriage, Lisa received a Facebook message from another woman saying: “Good luck with that cocaine conman”, a court heard.
Shockingly, Lisa then uncovered that Sharpe had a string of convictions against him, and was due in court just days after their wedding date on June 10, 2014.
Lowlife Sharpe convinced her to let him stay at his address, until she trawled through paperwork in her loft – and discovered he was still married to another woman.
The serial thief was even caught trying to steal off Lisa’s mum in October 2014 and was handed a suspended sentence at the time.
Sharpe, of Chaddesden, Derby, admitted bigamy and was jailed for five months at Derby Crown Court on Friday (8/7).
His current partner broke down in tears from the public gallery and he mouthed “I love you” to her as he was sent down.
He was told he would serve half of his sentence before he would be released on licence, and he will also have to pay a victim surcharge to be decided.
Sentencing, Judge Jonathan Bennett said: “Bigamy is an unusual offence, not one that goes through the courts very often.
“It is undoubtedly a serious offence as indicated by the maximum penalty it carries.
“Marriage is perhaps not the institution it was many years ago, but it is still an institution.
“It goes without saying the offence of course means a breach of trust towards the victim because you didn’t disclose to her issues of your background, but that is not the main issue.
“The main issue is the issue of deceit both to the registry office and to the victim.
“The huge embarrassment came from fraud against her, but also her having all of her friends and family join her in celebration only to discover it was all a great sham.
“I don’t accept that in effect this was just an administrative error.”
Prosecutor Jonathan Wigodes said: “This defendant married for the first time in 1996 to a lady called Claire.
“That marriage came to an end when they were divorced in 2002. That divorce was issued and decreed absolute.
“In 2006 he married for the second time, this time to a lady called Marina Sherwood.
“Their separation went through divorce proceedings but there never was a decree absolute. So that marriage came to an end.
“In early 2014 on a dating website he met a lady called Lisa Buckingham.
“They and her two daughters, one of whom is 20 the other 14, got on very well and they went to Portugal for a holiday in March 2014.
“While on holiday he proposed to her and he said he wanted to get married quickly and indeed he seemed desperate to get married quickly.
“They set a wedding date of June 6, 2014.
“Naturally, in the course of their relationship they spoke about ex-partners and the defendant quite clearly and deliberately lied.
“He told her he had only married once before to Claire and explained accurately that that marriage had ended in divorce.
“She believed he was being honest with her. They went to a registry office, he proceeded with the paperwork relating to Claire.
“In due course, on June 6 they were married.
“A certain amount of drinking took place and the marriage was not consummated that night.
“On June 8 Lisa received a message on Facebook from Kirsty Boyd saying ‘Good luck with the cocaine conman, I presume you will be with him when he goes to court on Tuesday.’
“She spoke to him and he denied it, he said she was just trying to cause trouble because he separated from her mother.
“She was sufficiently concerned to ring the Magistrates Court on June 10.
“She expected to be told it was not listed, but they told her it was. He told her she was mistaken, she was wrong and that he wouldn’t speak to her anymore about it.
“She found the charge sheet and confronted him with it, and he eventually admitting being in court.
“She was concerned that the marriage was not consummated.
“There were concerns over him stealing from her and her daughters and trying to fraudulently cash her mum’s cheque.
“That ended her relationship, and she feared he would go to prison. He received a suspended sentence and she permitted him to remain at her address.
“In April 2015 she went into the loft looking for his paperwork to give it back to him.
“She went through the paperwork to ensure none of hers was in it and in the course of doing that she found paperwork relating to his second marriage.
“This was something that had never been mentioned to her before. She contacted Leicester Court and then contacted the police.
“When she spoke to Sharpe he denied knowing her and then said he used to date her before, but they never married.
“He said she was being ridiculous.
“The defendant was arrested, he was interviewed and in the course of the interview he tried to downplay what had gone on.”
Mr Wigodes then read out a victim impact statement by Lisa that said: “He was the one who pushed for the marriage.
“If we hadn’t been married I would have left him on the spot, but I felt I owed it to the relationship persist.
“I believe this whole relationship was based on a lie and I want this whole nightmare to be over.”
Mr Wigodes added: “She is on the verge of a nervous breakdown. She can’t begin to explain how embarrassing it is to explain to people who came to the marriage that it was a sham.”
The court heard Mitchell previously been found guilty of theft in 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2010.
In October 2014 he was found guilty of stealing from Lisa’s family and received a suspended sentence.
Andrew Vout, defending, said: “The defendant did indeed marry Marina Sherwood on July 15, 2006, but that marriage lasted one week.
“On January 29, 2008, the defendant initiated divorce proceedings, and his attempts only failed due to an administrative failure on his account.”
The court heard the defendant moved homes in 2010 and so did not receive a letter to make the divorce absolute.
He later failed to inform Leicester County Court he was in receipt of Job Seeker’s Allowance in May 2011 and voided another attempt at divorce.
Mr Vout said: “He is here today for want of sending in his proof of receipt of Job Seeker’s Allowance, that is all.
“He was not in a rush to get married. While they were on holiday they saw others getting married and in the heat of the romance of that holiday they decided they wanted to get married.”