Late one night last week, the phone rang, startling Tony Clements awake. There was a delay when he answered the mobile, followed by a voice speaking in heavily-accented English.
‘Are you the brother of Philip?’ the man at the other end of the line asked. ‘Because I have to tell you that he passed away 30 minutes ago.’
Although Mr Clements knew that his brother had been unwell, the news came as a terrible shock.
As did the fact that it was delivered by the person he holds responsible for single-handedly ruining 81-year-old Philip’s life — Florin Marin, whom he dubbed the ‘gold-digger’ husband, 54 years the old man’s junior and the person Tony blames for separating him from his family in his latter days.
Florin Marin (pictured), a 27-year-old model from Romania, will now inherit his late husband’s estate
Despite the age gap, Phillip Clements and Florin Marin (pictured together on their wedding day) married in 2017 in a ceremony in Ramsgate, Kent
In the final, agonising twist of a tawdry tale that has engulfed this quietly-dignified family for five years, Tony says his brother’s young lover showed little emotion when he relayed news of the old man’s death.
‘He says he cried for two days but he phoned me on the very night he died and he certainly wasn’t crying when he spoke to me,’ he said. ‘It was 40 minutes after he died and he wasn’t crying then.’
The sad truth is that from the moment Philip fell under the spell of Florin nothing would ever be the same again. And a more unlikely couple it is hard to imagine.
When they met, Philip, a retired Church of England vicar and former public school chaplain, was enjoying a quiet retirement in a sleepy Kent village.
Mr Marin was a wannabe male model from Romania, with unnaturally white teeth and a penchant for leather trousers. Aged just 22, he was a whopping five decades Philip’s junior.
Lonely following the death of his mother, with whom he had lived, Philip had turned to an online dating app to look for company, meeting Mr Marin who had come to England to find work.
The younger man quickly ditched his job in a pub kitchen and moved in to Philip’s home. Despite the huge age gap and their very different upbringings, the pair married in 2017 in a ceremony in Ramsgate, Kent.
Philip’s friends and family had begged him not to go through with the union, warning that they thought Mr Marin was only interested in his money. But he ignored them, saying that after meeting the Romanian he had ‘learnt to live again’.
Maybe. But at what cost?
Philip Clements (pictured with his brothers on their mother’s 90th birthday in Dover, Kent) died in a hospital bed in Bucharest alone
Friends and family of Mr Clements (pictured with Mr Marin) urged him not to go through with the union, warning that they thought Mr Marin was only interested in his money
Anthony Clements (pictured) blames Mr Marin for separating his brother from his family in his latter days
Mr Clements’ brother Anthony (pictured right at Phillip’s 70th) said he has been given two family photographs following his brother’s death
Because when Philip died he did so alone, thousands of miles away from his family in a hospital bed in Bucharest. It is reported that his health had deteriorated after he was unable to access medicines he had been prescribed in the UK following heart problems.
The first his family back in England knew about it was when his youngest brother received the phone call from Mr Marin telling him of the news.
He also informed him that his brother had left him something in his will — two family photographs. Not much, given that before Philip married, Tony and his two other brothers stood to inherit the whole estate.
Instead, that will all now go to fund Mr Marin’s lavish lifestyle — the £100,000 apartment, a £150,000 life insurance policy, and a £2,000-a-month pension payable for the rest of his life.
Add in the amount Mr Clements spent on him during his life and his relatives say that, in total, the Romanian will have benefited to the tune of about £500,000.
‘Philip bought everything for him — designer clothes, the flights backwards and forwards — he had an expensive lifestyle, this chap, but then it was all free,’ said 71-year-old Mr Clements, speaking from his home in Dover, Kent.
The retired vicar (with Mr Marin) saw his husband’s profile on an online dating site in 2015 and the pair met up and clicked
Phillip Clements studied theology at King’s College London before he was ordained at Canterbury Cathedral
‘He really landed on his feet and Philip was blinded by a young man wanting a person like him.
‘Why would someone who was 20-odd want someone who was getting on for 80? It doesn’t take rocket science to work out why. But I’m not angry about the money. I would rather my brother was still alive. What makes us angry is the way he was treated.’
The eldest of four brothers raised in the village of Shepherdswell, Kent, from an early age it was apparent that Philip was cut from different cloth to the rest of his family.
With a sports-mad father, a sergeant-major who had served in World War II, the other boys loved cricket and rugby, one going on to join the Royal Marines. And while Mr Clements went to ‘the roughest of schools’, Philip was bright enough to win a place at the local grammar.
Having studied theology at King’s College London, he was then ordained at Canterbury Cathedral.
For the next two decades, he worked as a chaplain at a number of boarding schools, Lancing College in West Sussex among them.
He then spent nine years as a vicar at two parishes in East Sussex, before officially retiring aged 60 in 1999. During his working life he met both Prince Charles and Princess Anne. As is the way, even in his retirement he continued to officiate at services.
While he had long known he was gay, he kept his sexuality a secret until late in life.
‘He said to me and others he had to hide being gay because he was worried what the Church would say, what the family would say,’ said Mr Clements, a retired Royal Mail driver and father of four. ‘Not that we minded. I had no problem at all about him being gay, of course I didn’t.’
But Philip was lonely — and naïve.
‘I used to phone him and he would say, ‘I’m an educated man. I went to university,’ ‘ recalls Mr Clements.
‘I’d say, ‘You’re educated in the Church, Philip. The Church has kept you in a closet but you know nothing about the outside world. You don’t know how rough it is out there. You are not streetwise.’ ‘
In 2015 Philip saw Mr Marin’s profile on an online dating site. At the time, the 22-year-old was working as a chef at a pub in Buckinghamshire. The pair met up and clicked.
But what about the age gap?
‘Florin said it didn’t matter because he liked older men,’ Philip would tell friends. What would also emerge was that he also liked their money.
In mid-2016, the younger man gave up his job and moved into the retired vicar’s £215,000 home in Eastry, Kent.
The couple talked about buying a flat in Romania, and so Philip took out £100,000 in equity from his mortgage-free property. But they could not find anything they wanted to buy — so spent the cash instead.
Friends and family were shocked by Philip’s generosity. As well as endless shopping trips, there were holidays to Greece, Turkey and Spain.
‘My brother paid for everything,’ said Mr Clements. ‘One of his friends phoned me and said, ‘He is being ripped off.’ One person who lived near him went in there one day and Florin walked in and said, ‘Can you give me £3,000.’ And he just gave it to him like that. Florin would have all the best clothes.’
Within a year, the money had gone. At one point, in late 2016, Philip was spending so much money his bank froze his account and a police investigation was launched into whether all the spending had been authorised by him.
At the time Tony Clements voiced his concerns to police but was told they could take no action because his brother was of sound mind.
He added: ‘My brother and I kept telling him, ‘Don’t be a bloody fool.’ And stronger language than that.
‘The police said, ‘Why don’t you go over there and talk to him?’ I said, ‘If I go over there, it will be you coming over there to arrest me.’ I would have lost my temper. Philip hated me being like that but I could see what it was doing to him. It was ruining him.’
Needing more money, Philip then sold his house, the couple using the remaining cash to buy a two-bedroom flat in Bucharest where they set up home. He then gifted the property to his partner. By then, they had married, a move that attracted significant media attention.
Footage and photos from the ceremony in April 2017 captured the differing reactions of the two men as they celebrated their vows. While Mr Clements’ delight was obvious, Florin’s ‘cold’ pose would be described as being ‘as loving as a dead cod’ by one onlooker.
Mr Clements did not attend, having not been invited — not that he would have gone.
Back in Bucharest Mr Marin made the most of his new-found notoriety, appearing on television chat shows with his new husband to milk his moment in the spotlight. But within months, as everyone had warned, the age gap was beginning to show.
Mr Marin went out clubbing until all hours, telling his husband he was ‘too old’ to go with him. If then woken from his slumbers the next day, he would fly into a rage, it was claimed. The pair separated and Mr Clements returned to the UK. Now with no house to live in, he was forced to lodge in a room provided by a friend.
His husband, meanwhile, enjoyed a fling with a middle-aged Spanish man called Jesus. But despite everything, Philip refused to call time on his marriage and in March this year the couple were reconciled in Romania.
‘We’ve both learnt a lot,’ Philip said at the time.
What in particular had he learned, he was asked. ‘I know when he’s busy not to disturb him and to give him space,’ he said.
‘He goes to the gay club in Bucharest once a week and I’m fine with that. He must have space to be with younger people. It’s very important when there’s this big age difference.’
As Europe went into lockdown, so did Philip and his partner. Travel restrictions meant he was unable to return to the UK to see his GP, and was unable to receive his medication from the UK.
In an interview Mr Marin gave to MailOnline after Philip’s death, he explained how Philip fell ill with a high fever and was taken to hospital by ambulance. Although tests ruled out Covid-19, because of restrictions imposed to curb the pandemic Mr Marin was unable to see him when he was moved to a cardiac ward.
He says he gave nurses a letter to give to Philip in which he wrote that everyone who loved him was praying for him in England and that ‘the cat was fine and missing him’.
Then, on May 31, he received a phone call from the hospital informing him that his husband had died. In the interview with MailOnline he claimed that he was initially very upset by the news, but that he was able to quickly move on.
Philip didn’t want me to cry,’ he said. ‘He wanted people to be happy whatever happened.
‘People will think that I am a widow with a black hat who is crying, and I did cry, but two days is enough. ‘I don’t want to show people my feelings because my husband died, because somepeople take advantage of that and there are people who are happy because of your sadness. I am 27 years old and I’m not challenged.’
Having broken the news to Mr Clements last Sunday, Mr Marin called him back on the Monday to discuss what his brother had left him — two family photographs.
‘Florin told me that he’d send them to me,’ Mr Clements said. ‘I didn’t engage in a long conversation with him because I don’t like him and I’m not happy about what he’s done. We were supposed to inherit Philip’s estate but now it’s all gone to Florin.’
Asked about that inheritance, Mr Marin has insisted that the amount was ‘not that huge, it’s not like saying, wow, it’s one or two million pounds’.
He added: ‘He was my husband and this is my right. My darling people, it is not my fault that he left me with this money.’ Back in England, that’s not something his family would entirely agree with.
They are coming to terms with the fact that they will never see Philip again and that they will not even be present for his funeral.
Mr Marin has informed them that Philip asked to be cremated and for his ashes to be scattered on a lake in a park in Bucharest that he was fond of.
‘I can’t be there so I’ve asked to be told when it will take place so that I can at least think about Philip at that moment,’ said his brother. ‘I feel Florin is nothing but a gold-digger . . . and now he has got what he wanted. What has happened speaks for itself.
‘Florin has cashed in and has done very well out of my brother. I’d hate to think how much money Philip spent on him when they were together, plus what he has got now.
‘The family did what we could to try to help but at the end of the day, what can you do? It’s sad, just very sad.’