Neo-nazis to the FBI: Top tips from a lifetime fighting crime by retired Wanstead fraud investigator

Retired fraud investigator Bob Blunden talking to Chief Reporter Ralph Blackburn

Retired fraud investigator Bob Blunden talking to Chief Reporter Ralph Blackburn - Credit: Archant

Investigating neo-Nazi and terrorist funding, foiling fraudsters who stole £600million from a Mumbai bank, it all sounds like the life of James Bond.

This was, in fact, part of the career of retired investigator Bob Blunden, of Homesdale Close, Wanstead, who tackled robberies, corruption and even murder cases all across the world.

The 72-year-old, who worked for oil companies, financial institutions and stockbrokers, now wants to help you avoid being scammed.

Mr Blunden spoke to the Recorder before his first monthly column, where he passes on advice, wit and wisdom from his long career as a fraud investigator.

He was born in South Woodford and went to Cowslip Road School until it burnt down in 1950.

“We were all cheering and the headteacher was in tears,” Mr Blunden remembered.

He then attended technical school in Walthamstow, before getting a job for petrol giant Esso, where his investigative career started.

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“I started working in the audit office, so I could get a company car, and we started looking at people who were over-claiming on fuel expenses.”

In the late 1970s he was taken under the wing of white collar crime expert Mike Comer, and they began to tackle robberies and corruption.

“We were up in Newcastle with police, who were about to bang down the door of this lorry driver,” Mr Blunden explained.

“We went in and arrested him, and he started complaining that he couldn’t go down to the nick because the cat was out and his wife would kill him. So we waited for hours for his cat to return, before taking him to the station and he gave everyone else up.”

Mr Blunden moved from Esso to work privately for different companies and this was when he looked into the Mumbai bank theft, helped the FBI and also investigated discredited historian David Irving – who was at the centre of the Holocaust denial libel case.

He travelled around the country and world, from Johannesburg to the Peak District before eventually settling in Norfolk, with Stephen Fry as his next door neighbour.

“I remember one morning I was walking to my wife’s grave, with flowers and a glass of whisky because that was the drink she liked. I saw Hugh Laurie who was coming to visit Stephen Fry and walked past him – ‘hello Mr Laurie’ with the whisky. He looked so confused!”

He has now moved back to east London to be near his children, and still bumps into old friends in the pub.

One final bit of advice? “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.”