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Son tells of £200,000 loss as probe into top former Hansells lawyer continues

PUBLISHED: 06:40 24 May 2018 | UPDATED: 11:35 24 May 2018

Hugh Lansdell pictured in 2014 Photo: Archant

Hugh Lansdell pictured in 2014 Photo: Archant

Archant 2014

It took Russell Wright’s parents five decades to build up their wealth, running businesses in north Norfolk.

Russell Wright Picture: ArchantRussell Wright Picture: Archant

But in three months almost £200,000 which they had left their children had gone.

The money was held in an account with law firm Hansells.

After Mr Wright’s father, John, died in November 2016, the 58-year old hoped to sort out his father’s affairs quickly.

But 18 months later he is still waiting and there are ongoing police and Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) investigations into the lawyer administering his father’s estate, former senior partner at Hansells, Hugh Lansdell.

Money was withdrawn from the Wrights’ account in five-figure sums from January to March 2017.

But it was only when Mr Wright, who runs a construction business, needed £6,000 from the account to pay a contractor in June 2017 that he realised something was not right.

“It was excuse after excuse about why I couldn’t get the money,” Mr Wright from Cromer said.

“It all came to a head over this cheque. They gave me the cheque but it was written out of Hansells’ account and not from our account because by that point our account was empty.

“Eventually I wrote to Hansells’ managing partner, Roger Holden, and I said, I’ve had enough.”

A letter from Hansells sent to Mr Wright on August 21 confirmed they were investigating “financial irregularities”.

A week before the letter was sent, Mr Lansdell resigned as a director of Hansells. That month Hansells alerted the SRA.

The firm also paid the money back into the Wrights’ account and to other clients who were affected.

But Mr Wright said: “My parents came from nothing so when the money was gone it really choked me up.”

A spokesman for the SRA confirmed: “Our work on this matter continues.

“Once a decision has been taken, it would be a matter of public record.

“If we believe we have found evidence of criminal behaviour in the course of work, we have an agreement that we will report it to the relevant authority.”

Norfolk police also confirmed they were investigating.

Mr Lansdell, 69, left Hansells in September last year and in November he was declared bankrupt.

Mr Lansdell said he was unable to comment because of the ongoing investigations.

•What Hansells says

In response to our questions about what happened in this case, Hansells said it was “committed to upholding the highest ethical standards”.

In a statement, a spokesman for the Norfolk law firm said: “In August 2017, we requested assistance from the Solicitors Regulatory Authority, (SRA) the independent body which oversees the legal profession, relating to irregularities.

“We worked closely with the SRA as they undertook its investigation into Mr Hugh Lansdell and are currently waiting the results of that report.

“At the same time we made a report to Action Fraud (the reporting arm of the police for fraud cases) and their investigations are ongoing.

“For those reasons, we cannot legally make any further comment other than to confirm that Hugh Lansdell ceased to be a partner in the firm on 4 September 2017.

“We are committed to upholding the highest ethical standards.

“This has been the firm’s guiding principle since the firm was founded in Norfolk in 1827.”

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