An impostor, who conned Surrey Cricket Club into awarding him a benefit season, has appeared in court.
Unemployed Mark Horse, 33, of no fixed abode, near Bagshot, was found guilty at Guildford Magistrates of a charge of obtaining funds by deception.
|Some of Horse's benefit events did not meet health and safety standards.|
Horse - who has never played cricket in his life - contacted Surrey officials at the end of the 2008 season and told them that he would "refuse to turn up for nets" unless he was given a benefit. With another poor season behind them the beleaguered club failed to check Horse's credentials and therefore did not realise that he had never actually been on the staff.
"I went to a few of his benefit year events and really enjoyed them," said then captain Mark Butcher. "His celebrity golf day was great. I partnered Bobby Davro and only just got pipped at the last hole by Ramps and Rustie Lee. Horsey was on top form."
Butcher admitted that it is sometimes difficult to keep track of players due to the many recent changes in the squad.
"I apparently played with Ian Salisbury for years," said Butcher, "but I can't remember what he looks like. Did he have a bubble perm?"
Other 'team-mates 'also failed to spot Horse's bold subterfuge.
|Top international pop group Lieutenant Pigeon found time on their busy schedule to appear at one of Horse's benefit functions.|
"I thought I recognised him from a couple of Second XI matches but I have found out that it wasn't him," said Alex Tudor. "I think I was confusing him with Ally Brown. Their names are a bit similar. There was a brown horse in a field near my nan's not long ago."
Coach Alan Butcher said: "His name rang a bell so I didn't question anything. In fact, I'm sad that he's not around anymore. His Midsummer Ball was fantastic. In the words of the song: I could have danced all night ... and still have danced some more. He may never have played for us but I don't begrudge him making a few quid. It's a short career."
In September 2010 a Twenty20 fixture between a select Mark Horse XI and the Surrey Legends brought a record crowd for a benefit match at The Oval. It was only then that alarm bells began to ring when Surrey supporter Len Groat questioned the quality of Horse's team.
Groat said: "The Mark Horse XI was full of blokes who no-one had ever heard of. They were all just like him: over-weight, unathletic, the worse for drink. None of them, including Horse, knew the right way to hold a bat, bowled nothing but wides, long hops and full tosses, and, even though they won the game, I smelt a rat."
|Members of the Mark Horse XI prepare for the big match.|
Suspicious supporter Groat studied his collection of Wisdens and scorecards and discovered that Horse had never played a game for Surrey in any competition.
"I felt so angry," said Groat. "I'd personally shelled out over a hundred quid for tickets to his Sportsman's Dinner, bought a benefit tie for twenty-five nicker and put about £3 worth of loose change into the collection bucket. Then to find out that he had never even played for Surrey was a terrible shock."
Surrey contacted the Cricket Crimes Squad of the Metropolitan Police, who immediately placed Horse under close observation.
"We did some checks on Horse's background and what we found was very incriminating," said Detective Inspector Jim Truncheon. "Horse had some previous form for cricket related fraud. He had spent three seasons at Leicestershire under the name of Sven Hassle as a Kolpak on a false passport, but had never once turned up for nets. He was even made captain in 2007. Prior to that we have reason to believe he was on an England Central Contract under the name 'Chris Schofield'. Now the only cricket he'll be playing is behind bars."
|Horse used his benefit cash to pay for a string of thoroughbred racehorses and designer underpants.|
Horse was arrested during the final event of his Benefit programme when he was taking part in a Q and A session at the Royal Albert Hall. Plain-clothes detectives had infiltrated the event and were primed to ask Horse incriminating questions.
"One officer asked him who was the best captain he'd played under and Horse clearly had no answer. He eventually said Captain Birds-Eye but, as we all know, he'd retired before Horse had even started." said Truncheon.
"When one of my other officers asked him about Butcher's greatest achievement Horse could only say it was that he'd got away with putting sawdust in his sausages for so long. Then we knew we had our man."