Bathtubs of live lobsters, a castle hired for her PA’s birthday, £70k on champagne – all paid for with stolen charity cash: GUY ADAMS reveals the riotous story of how ‘Lady’ Rosemary went partying all the way to prison
When the fragrant Lady Rosemary Aberdour decided to organise a birthday outing for her secretary, Claire, she really went the whole hog. Since Claire’s surname was Conway-Potter, the wealthy aristocrat arranged to hire out Conwy Castle in North Wales and fly there with Claire from London, in a helicopter.
On arrival, Lady Rosemary and her lucky guest were serenaded by uniformed trumpeters in medieval uniforms, before being approached by a menacing ‘black knight’ who staged a fake kidnap.
The bad guy was then challenged by a white knight, who ‘saved’ the duo before taking their hands and leading them to a pair of elaborately decorated thrones in the castle grounds, where they were crowned.
A two-hour pageant ensued, with jousting and entertainment laid on by dozens of actors. Then they returned to the helicopter and adjourned to a second Welsh castle for lunch. The reception committee was a brass band and a male voice choir.
Pictured: ‘Lady’ Rosemary Aberdour, living the high life at her Caribbean party (undated)
The duo were joined by Lady Rosemary’s black labrador, Jeeves, who had been banned from the chopper so was driven up by her chauffeur. He was served birthday cake in the shape of a pet food can.
The jaunt cost more than £40,000. And this was in 1990. Today, that’s the equivalent of almost £100,000. How the other half live – except it later emerged that the extravagant and supposedly blue-blooded host was neither wealthy nor aristocratic.
Instead, ‘Lady’ Rosemary was a humble doctor’s daughter from rural Essex who had spent the previous three years successfully posing as the heir to a stupendously wealthy Scottish earl.
She had also been systematically defrauding the charity where she worked, extracting £2.7million from its bank accounts.
The cash was squandered in one of the ‘Loadsamoney’ era’s most extravagant, not to mention elaborate, spending sprees.
Aberdour spent £10,000 a month renting a palatial, four-bedroom penthouse flat overlooking the Thames in Battersea, South-West London, with marble floors, silk and satin interiors, cut-glass chandeliers, and doors made from birdseye maple.
A swing hung over its vast indoor pool, in a room of pink granite and floor-to-ceiling mirrors. Her next-door neighbour was the movie star Brigitte Nielsen.
By Joe Middleton for MailOnline
A fraudster who gained worldwide notoriety for an outrageous £2.7million charity scam almost 30 years ago is under investigation after £110,000 went ‘missing’ from her father’s estate.
Rosemary Cubbin – nee Aberdour – served a jail term in the 1990s after going on a lavishly extravagant spending spree with millions she took from a central London hospital charity where she was a deputy director.
Mrs Cubbin, 58, used her ill-gotten gains to live out an opulent fantasy life, claiming to be a rich heiress with the title ‘Lady Rosemary Aberdour’.
She rented a Battersea penthouse overlooking the Thames, sent a chauffeur to buy steak for her labrador – Jeeves – from Harrods, and hired drag queens from a West End cabaret for a Valentine’s Day party.
She also rented a helicopter to fly her secretary and herself to Conwy Castle in Wales, where two armoured knights battled for their attention, and once hired a car and driver to take her dog from London for a walk in Scotland.
After being rumbled, she fled to Brazil, but returned from Rio after being tracked down and was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment amid worldwide media attention in 1992.
But ‘Lady’ Aberdour – now called Rosemary Cubbin after marrying her Army captain partner – is once more said to be under police investigation and was in front of a judge again last week after cash and assets worth around £110,000 went ‘missing’ from her late father’s estate.
Her brother, Robert Aberdour, took her to London’s High Court, asking Judge Stephen Lloyd to remove her as an executor of Dr Kenneth Aberdour’s estate due to her failure to account for where around £90,000 cash, plus items from their father’s house, went.
The siblings are the only beneficiaries of their father’s ‘modest’ estate following his death in 2018.
She kept a full-time retinue of five personal staff, including a chef, butler, bodyguard, full-time secretary and a chauffeur to drive her fleet of cars, which included a £143,000 customised Bentley Turbo and a £70,000 convertible Mercedes, each with personalised number plates.
Her staff’s duties included taking Jeeves, the labrador, to Harrods for lunch and on one occasion driving him all the way to the Scottish Highlands, so that he could go for ‘walkies’ in properly fresh air.
In the space of three years, the 20-something ‘Lady’ squandered £50,000 on flowers, £100,000 on a series of yachting holidays, more than £200,000 on jewellery, £70,000 on Dom Perignon champagne for her cellar, and tens of thousands hiring a celebrity fitness trainer called Jamie Addicoat, who was then known as the ‘Beastmaster’ because of his tough sessions with clients such as film star Ellen Barkin and singer Bruce Springsteen.
‘I would turn up every day and get paid, whether she wanted a class or not,’ he later recalled. ‘Sometimes I just walked the dog.’
Her greatest extravagance was parties. At least £1miilion was spent staging a series of extraordinary celebrations, to mark everything from Valentine’s Day to her birthday and Halloween, at London’s most exclusive hotels.
When the inevitable finally happened, and Aberdour’s crime was uncovered, she hot-footed it to Brazil – but then had a change of heart, returning to London and surrendering to the police.
In March 1992, she pleaded guilty to 17 charges of deception, theft and forgery and was sentenced to four years in prison.
After being released in 1994, having served half her sentence, she moved to the country, married, and more or less disappeared from public view. Her remarkable crimes were consigned to the annals of history.
Until now. For this week, Rosemary Aberdour, now known as Rosemary Cubbin, was at London’s High Court after £110,000 worth of cash and items from her late father’s estate went ‘missing’.
Her brother, Robert Aberdour, a shipbroker from Surrey, asked Judge Stephen Lloyd to remove her as executor of the will of their father Dr Kenneth Aberdour, who died in 2018.
Robert’s barrister, Joshua Winfield, told the court that Cubbin — who for a time had power of attorney for their father – ‘could not account for a significant sum of money’. He added: ‘There is an ongoing police investigation.’
Mrs Cubbin, for her part, insists that the amount allegedly missing is closer to £30,000. An independent solicitor has been appointed to establish where it has gone and, if possible, recover the money.
‘Lady’ Rosemary will forever be haunted by her notorious brush with fame, which dates back to 1986 when she joined the office of the National Hospital Development Foundation, a charity whose patron was Princess Diana.
Then 24, she was from respectable middle-class stock: Dr Kenneth was a radiologist at Broomfield Hospital in Chelmsford, Essex, while her mother Jean worked as a secretary.
In 1988, Rosemary took over the running of an annual fundraiser, the Queen Square Ball. She began to call herself Lady Rosemary, claiming to be the daughter of the Earl of Morton, and telling friends and colleagues that she was heir to a £20 million estate.
She was promoted to deputy director of the charity and made sole signatory on several of its bank accounts, on which there were few controls.
She started small, using forged signatures to withdraw cash that paid first for a holiday and then a car. But soon things escalated, as she rented ever more luxurious homes at the charity’s expense and assembled personal staff.
Then came the parties. At Claridge’s, she staged a teddy bears’ picnic laying down an AstroTurf floor in a function room and hiring staff dressed as knaves from Alice In Wonderland. Lady Rosemary dressed as a mouse.
As guests arrived, they were handed their first course in a picnic hamper, containing bottles of Dom Perignon labelled Rosie’s Pop.
At the Savoy, the Abraham Lincoln function room was transformed into a Chinese temple for her birthday, while in London’s Docklands she spent £65,000 staging a Halloween party with dodgems and a ghost train.
On one occasion, her home was the setting for a £150,000 Star Trek bash, with the dining room converted into the bridge of the Starship Enterprise and a puppet show performed by the team behind Spitting Image with an actor hired to play Mr Spock. On another, drag queen Ruby Venezuela and a troupe of his colleagues from a West End cabaret were hired for a Valentine’s bash for £60,000.
In 1990, she moved to the Savoy for a week so that the Battersea penthouse could be transformed into an exotic beach for a ‘Caribbean thrash’. Guests were handed cocktails before being invited to change into swimwear and dive into the pool. They were handed fishing rods and invited to catch the lobsters and crayfish swimming in ‘Lady’ Rosemary’s bathtub.
The creatures were then put on the barbecue.
In October that year she hired country house Thornton Watlass Hall in Yorkshire for two weeks of revelry. A fleet of rented vintage cars ferried her guests to York races and other local attractions. Nightly revelries included a Halloween party with ‘live’ bodies leaping from coffins.
One of the many strange things about Aberdour’s turbo-fuelled existence, friends later observed, was how little she seemed to enjoy it. A plump, somewhat lonely individual, she never got drunk at her parties and often retired early, complaining that no one really loved her.
Many acquaintances who accepted her hospitality – and were sometimes handed gifts or envelopes filled with ‘pocket money’ – rarely repaid her affection. One suggestion is that Aberdour’s crimes were largely motivated by a desire to be liked.
It seems that Aberdour kept her fantasy life from her parents and immediate family by convincing them that the lavish home she inhabited was paid for by the charity as a venue for entertaining wealthy patrons.
Friends were told never to call her ‘Lady Rosemary’ or refer to her supposedly aristocratic status; to explain why, she made up the story that her parents were ‘socialists’ who had rejected their inheritance and the family title.
The cracks began to appear before Christmas 1990 when her fitness trainer Jamie gave a newspaper interview in which he mentioned that celebrity clients included one Rosemary Aberdour, daughter of the Earl of Morton.
He was telephoned by the real earl, who indignantly declared that he didn’t have a daughter called Rosemary. When Jamie confronted his client she convinced him there had been a misunderstanding.
By mid-1991, the National Hospital Foundation’s bank accounts had been so drained they were almost empty. Aberdour purchased an open plane ticket to Brazil and awaited the inevitable denouement. On June 7, bosses at the charity discovered a forged cheque in one of her files. She was sacked but by the time the charity had realised the extent of her crime she was on a plane to Rio de Janeiro.
With Aberdour on the flight was Michael Cubbin, an Army officer to whom she had recently become engaged. The seemingly blameless Cubbin, who had met Rosemary in a pub near her parents’ home, was unaware of her crimes.
When she confessed, he persuaded her to return to the UK to face the music. In court, her barrister compared Aberdour’s crimes to a compulsive gambling spree, saying she had an uncontrollable desire to ‘please people’ by attempting ‘to buy their affection and esteem’.
‘The so-called friends, who sponged off her ill-gotten gains, have evaporated like the bubbles in champagne,’ he said. ‘The cars and the jewels have gone back to their rightful owners. The pretty balloons have long since burst and the party’s over.’ Aberdour had nothing to show for the spree, he added. The only real victims of the crime were insurance companies, who had repaid the stolen loot to the charity.
Cubbin loyally stood by his now-penniless fiancee and married her at a modest military wedding in November 1994, shortly after her release from prison.
They lived in Oxfordshire, in a cottage where Rosemary ran fashion company Knit Wits. But in the late 1990s, the couple moved to Suffolk.
There the couple, who have no children, have led a quiet existence. Michael worked for the Defence Safety Authority after leaving the Army, and now works as boss of a local solicitors’ firm.
Rosie, as she is known to friends, now writes a food blog called Lick The Spoon. It is linked to an Instagram account where she posts images of culinary creations. There have in recent years been signs that all is not well on the financial front.
In 2014, a business venture called Corten Steel Shipping Ventures Limited, of which Rosie was a director and shareholder, went into insolvency, owing a quarter of a million pounds to creditors including the Inland Revenue, who were due £41,904.
Just before Christmas, meanwhile, a charge was registered to the property by West One Secured Loans Limited, a remortgaging company. She did not return messages asking about either her current circumstances or the latest court proceedings this week, while Rosemary’s brother Robert also declined to discuss the affair.
But given her reappearance at the centre of a new High Court battle, it is clear that, three decades on from when she first hit the headlines, the fake ‘Lady’ is still battling her hangover.
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