DREAMING for a holiday after hard work during the lockdown, Paul Stocks was delighted to find a golf holiday in Turkey at a knock-down price, through a freelance travel agent. locally.
But the dream vacation turned into a nightmare when gardener Paul, 42, his wife Elizabeth, 46, and their four friends found themselves stranded in Turkey with no place to stay after three nights.
To his horror, when he tried to contact agent Lyne Barlow, for whom the group had paid more than £6,000 to arrange respite, he was informed that she had been arrested.
He then discovered the seemingly respectable mother-of-two had scammed hundreds of locals, including family and friends, out of £2.6million – and even lied about it. get cancer to avoid getting caught.
Barlow’s daring holiday scam appeared on tonight’s episode of The Big Swindle, on Quest Red, after she was jailed for nine years for fraud.
The documentary also follows a devastated couple who are sent on a 500-mile wild goose chase with their two young children after booking a non-existent barge.
Disgusted victim Paul, from Chester-le-Street, Co. Durham, told The Sun that a holiday injury in Turkey had knocked his confidence, but the most horrifying scam was faking illness – even wearing a bandanna to suggest she was pregnant. hair loss. to chemotherapy.
“When we found out she was lying about cancer and faking it with a headscarf, I thought, ‘This is some kind of job,’” he said.
“A lot of people, myself included, have seen their family and loved ones with cancer so lying about it is the lowest of the lows.”
wear all five stars
Paul and Elizabeth, who worked as babysitters for the children of key workers during the lockdown, love to travel and save their hard-earned money to enjoy their vacation.
When lockdown travel restrictions were eased in late summer 2020, the couple decided to go on a two-week holiday with their NHS staff friends.
At the time, Barlow, from Stanley, Co. Nearby Durham, who runs his travel business through a Facebook page, has earned a reputation for getting great bargains.
“Friends tell us about really enjoyable vacations they have booked with Lyne Barlow,” says Paul. “They had a few hiccups but for the price, great holidays.”
A lot of people, myself included, have witnessed their family and loved ones with cancer so lying about it is the lowest of the lows.
Barlow found the group a five-star hotel in the Atalar region, with a golf course, at an attractive rate of £2,082 per couple, and when Paul set his own price, the cheapest came to £3,600.
“We travel a lot and I always do due diligence,” he said. “But her documents say she’s covered by ATOL and ABTA and when I asked why she was so cheap, she said, ‘I got rid of the middle man’.”
Famous in the area, Barlow was a married mother with a luxurious detached home and had many friends – who also recommended her – so Paul trusted her.
He explained: “If someone gets caught up in these scams, you normally never meet the person involved, but she came out, everyone knows where she lives.
Just days before their holiday, Barlow texted saying their flight had been changed from Newcastle to Manchester, and Paul’s friend Gareth had come to her house to collect tickets.
Although unhappy with the last-minute change, Gareth was “blinded” when Barlow opened the door, pale, with a bandana around her head and apologetic, saying she was battling an illness .
Paul said: “Gareth was surprised when she said she was being treated and he felt he couldn’t say anything too harsh because she’s been through so much.
Arriving in Turkey, the group was transferred to the Titanic hotel as scheduled, and was very satisfied with their executive room at the five-star luxury hotel.
The morning after arriving, they were told the golf course would be closed for two weeks for maintenance – and when they called Barlow, she assured them she would arrange an alternative. .
But worse happened when three men were called into the manager’s office and told Lyne Barlow Travel was only paying for three nights – and they would have to pay an extra £2,800 per couple to stay. again.
Desperate to keep his wife in the dark until the matter was resolved, Paul texted Barlow but received no response. He then heard that she had been arrested and that the police had confiscated her phone.
Paul said: “It was shocking. “You hear all these horror stories and you think it would never happen to us. But even though she was arrested, we don’t know for what reason, so we went back to the manager’s office and tried to solve the problem, but he said we had to leave.
“It was 7pm and the girls were relaxing by the pool, so he said we had to pay £280 per couple because we had used the facilities that day.
“When we refused, he started threatening us with the police so we paid and then we had to go tell the girls we had to pack up and leave within an hour. hour.
“The girls are absolutely devastated and we boys are furious.
“At the time, we just needed to find somewhere to stay, but this was our first time in Türkiye and we were stuck.”
Gareth had been promised that a boarding pass for the return flight would be sent to him, but when he checked his email there was no sign of a booking.
Forced to leave, the distressed group heads to a local bar to figure out what to do next.
Paul said: “The girls were very sad and crying. “He couldn’t believe the way we were being treated, but he has an apartment complex so he offered to let us spend the night.”
“Without him, I don’t know what we would have done.”
After hours of searching for flights on the Internet, they found the first booking available was seven days away, to Newcastle.
The apartment owner agreed to let them stay for the seven days they paid for, but the vacation was ruined.
“We tried to make the most of it, but it wasn’t what we expected,” Paul said.
“We’ve also booked a ski break for January next year with Lyne Barlow Travel, so we know that won’t happen either.
We had to go and tell the girls we had to pack up and leave in an hour
“We spent an extra £1,500 because we paid for the package and then we stayed in a self-catering flat, paying for meals and additional flights. Then we had to go from Newcastle to Manchester to get the car.”
Annoyed, Paul goes to Barlow’s house to confront her.
“I looked through the windows and doors but didn’t see anyone so I went down to the back of the house, I couldn’t believe what I saw,” he said.
“The greenhouse is black and scorched, where someone tried to burn it down.
“A neighbor came to tell me that about 300 people have come to this house in the last few weeks and someone threw a petrol bomb in the back, so she upset a lot of people.
“The police had to set up an email database because there were so many people she scammed.
“Our friends booked through her for a large group trip to Mexico for £43,000.”
Claire and Alex Todd also fell victim to Barlow’s lies after they booked a barge vacation for themselves, their daughter Grace, now 7, and Fraser, 3, and a family of five. another, at Norfolk Broads, pays £1,443.
Barlow even laid out a roadmap, including recommendations for dog-friendly pubs.
But when they reached their destination after a five-hour drive from Newcastle in August 2020, there were no reservations.
After frantically calling Barlow, they were offered a house in York 200 miles away, which turned out to be a cramped little apartment that Claire said was “like student accommodation”.
In tears, Clare refused to stay and ended up in a hotel 20 minutes from home, after 12 hours in a car with her two young children.
Barlow tells Claire she’s been in and out of the hospital for chemotherapy, but when the angry mother shows up on her doorstep to confront her, she doesn’t believe it.
She said: “She has hair growing on her eyebrows where she shaved them and also on her arms. “She was wearing a bandana but as we talked, I saw a strand of hair as long as my hair come out.”
‘Toilet not working’
Louise Frost, who is a friend of Barlow and even went on group holidays with her, booked a New Year’s break for 26 adults and children with each family paying between £800 and £1,000.
But when they arrived, there was no reservation and the group had to spend the night on a holiday that was said to be “like a scouting hut on a working dairy farm,” with 10 bunk beds and no beds. the toilet works.
Outraged, Louise posted about her experience on Facebook and, to her surprise, was flooded with other victims recounting their stories.
Fraud 2.6 million pounds
In September 2020, Barlow was arrested. Police found she had caused 1,400 customers to lose money by failing to book trips between 2019 and 2020.
She also admitted to stealing £500,000 from her mother following the death of her father in 2015, 10 counts of fraud and an allegation of money laundering involving £1.6m.
In February of this year, she was jailed for nine years.
Paul managed to get his money back from the bank after contacting the Ombudsman, but says the experience had a lasting impact.
“It made me lose confidence,” he said, “I am a pretty confident person, I run my own company and deal with the day-to-day business, but now, if i was booking a holiday i would be extremely cautious.
“That’s the worst because all the time you see bargains that can be real bargains, but I would only go with the big companies and pay hundreds of dollars more for that bargain.
“I just don’t want us to go through that again so I’m always guessing about people.”
The Big Swindle airs tonight (Saturday) on Quest Red and is available to stream on Discovery+.