To women swiping through profiles on dating apps, the smiling, handsome lance corporal in uniform seemed a dream match. But Angela Whitbread, 45, from London, knows how appearances can be misleading.
She is still counting the cost after being wooed by army guardsman Nathan Walker, 29, who protected the Queen at Buckingham Palace while duping Ms Whitbread and two other women into paying him £33,000 to feed his gambling addiction.
Although he was jailed this week for fraud for two years and eight months, she will still be paying debts he incurred long after he is released from prison.
She told FEMAIL: ‘I wish I had never met him. If I saw him again, I would say, “Thanks for ruining the rest of my life”.
Angela Whitbread, 45, from London, was wooed and conned out of £15,000 by army guardsman Nathan Walker, who was jailed this week for fraud for two years and eight months
Walker protected the Queen at Buckingham Palace while duping Ms Whitbread and two other women into paying him £33,000 to feed his gambling addiction
‘I can’t see myself ever being able to afford to have children, save for a deposit on a house or go on holiday.
‘Police have said it is doubtful I will get my money back so I will be paying off loans he took out in my name for another three years.’
Ms Whitbread first came across Walker on the dating app Happn in April 2017. His profile included a picture of him in uniform and he boasted of being a soldier for the Grenadier Guards, one of the oldest regiments in the army and responsible for protecting royal palaces.
Walker messaged Ms Whitbread via the app, complimenting her on her appearance. ‘I’m shy but chat to me and we’ll see how shy I am,’ he wrote.
Ms Whitbread, who was newly single after a seven-year relationship had ended, was intrigued enough to reply and the pair began text messaging one another.
Ms Whitbread, who was newly single after a seven-year relationship had ended, met Walker on the dating app Happn in April 2017
Walker bragged of being decorated during tours in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, and, with his green eyes and dark hair, convinced Ms Whitbread he was a romantic prospect.
She said: ‘I had downloaded the app out of curiosity as I was in the process of splitting up with my partner.
‘The fact Nathan was in the Grenadier Guards made me think he was trustworthy. Soldiers are supposed to be protecting the country and Queen, so I thought he would be honest and someone to get to know.’
Walker continued plying Ms Whitbread, an admin worker in the construction industry, with compliments. About a week after they began messaging, the tone changed.
The lance corporal said his phone line was about to be cut off and he wouldn’t be able to stay in touch with his five-year-old daughter from a previous relationship.
In his dating app profile, Walker boasted of being a soldier for the Grenadier Guards, one of the oldest regiments in the army and responsible for protecting royal palaces
He pleaded with Ms Whitbread to lend him £50 so he could maintain contact.
She said: ‘I told him, “You need to speak to your family” but he said he didn’t have any. He was trying to make me feel really bad for him and said he wouldn’t be able to speak to his daughter.
‘He kept texting me constantly with compliments. I was dubious but thought, he’s a soldier and will be able to give me the money back at some point.’
Ms Whitbread reluctantly agreed to loan him the money and met him near Victoria train station to hand over the cash in the street.
Their 10-minute ‘date’ was one of just three brief times she met him – yet he managed to persuade her to be a guarantor for loans totalling £15,000 and fraudulently took out another £5,000 loan in her name.
Walker bombarded her with text messages, showering her with flattery and sexually explicit messages and pictures.
Walker bombarded Ms Whitbread with text messages, showering her with flattery and sexually explicit messages and pictures, but began asking her for money – claiming first that his phone line was about to be cut off and he wouldn’t be able to stay in touch with his five-year-old daughter from a previous relationship
He repeatedly asked Ms Whitbread to send him naked pictures of herself, but always claimed he was too busy with work to meet and was subject to curfew at Lille Barracks in Aldershot, Hampshire.
Ms Whitbread said: ‘He seemed sweet and genuine, and quite upset that he wouldn’t be able to have his phone if he couldn’t get the money.
‘He was messaging me later in the evening after I gave him £50. From the start he was quite blatant about sex. I did send him naked pictures because he kept harassing me.’
Within a couple of weeks, Walker was claiming his ex-girlfriend had saddled him with multiple debts and begged Ms Whitbread to be his guarantor for two high-interest loans of £10,000 and £5,000.
She said: ‘I was pretty reluctant but he kept badgering me and said things would be better once he had them. He was always using his daughter as emotional blackmail.
‘I agreed to be a guarantor but told him he had to keep up payments.’
Walker begged Ms Whitbread to be his guarantor for two high-interest loans of £10,000 and £5,000
Walker paid a few installments but then lapsed – and by September 2017, Ms Whitbread was being chased for payments for the original £15,000 and another £11,000 in interest.
When she lost her job at Christmas, she took out a loan from her own bank to pay off the debt and consolidate what she now owed. She has been paying £400 per month to clear the loan ever since.
Walker rang up an additional £3,000 in mobile phone charges after Ms Whitbread agreed to sign up to a second number on her phone contract. Unbeknownst to her, he was using the phone to gamble online.
When she discovered she was liable for his deception, she had the phone line cut off in 2018 – and Walker then became abusive.
She said: ‘He kept trying to video call me and left aggressive messages. Then in October 2018 he said he wanted to give me some money to pay me back.’
Ms Whitbread saw £5,000 appear in her bank account. When she investigated further, she found it was actually a loan that had been taken out in her name.
She returned the money and reported the matter to police, who began a two-year probe into Walker’s activities. They found he had persuaded several women to part with thousands of pounds in loans and duped them into paying for items like tickets and phone top-ups.
Nathan Walker was jailed for two years and eight months at Winchester Crown Court, pictured, on Tuesday
He promised his victims a romantic future while trading off his ‘military glamour’ – but was actually feeding an £8,000 a month gambling addiction.
One victim said her ability to own a home and her credit rating had been wrecked by Walker. Another said she was racked with guilt after putting him before her child’s needs.
Although Walker has apologised to that victim, he has never said sorry to Ms Whitbread, whose victim impact statement was read out in Winchester Crown Court, where Walker was sent to prison yesterday after pleading guilty to 10 counts of fraud.
She said he was trying to dupe new victims as recently as December last year.
In the past year Walker had been in London supporting Covid testing sites. He suffered from poor mental health.
Judge Jane Miller told the conman his offending had been ‘systematic, calculated and despicable’.
Ms Whitbread, who has been in a relationship for two years with a man she met on the app Hinge, said the experience had made her wary of dating apps.
She is still paying the price. As well as her savings being decimated, she has stopped shopping at Sainsbury’s and now can only afford budget brands in Aldi.
‘It was a lesson learned,’ she said. ‘I think I was naive at the time. Now I would never lend money to anyone again, even family.
‘I would say to anyone on dating apps to be very careful and check who you are speaking to. Don’t fall for a pretty face like I did.’