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1974: Man jailed for forging PM's signature

Businessman Ronald Milhench who forged Harold Wilson's signature to help pull off a deal has been jailed for three years.

The judge, Mr Justice Crichton, told Milhench he was a "very simple but a dishonest man".

Milhench, 37, had admitted eight charges against him ranging from firearms offences to forging a letter from the prime minister.

The letter, on Harold Wilson's personal notepaper, purported to show the prime minister's support for a property deal in which Milhench was involved.

The project in Wigan, Cheshire, had run into financial problems and Milhench hoped the PM's name would bring in backers.

His forgery was discovered when he tried to sell the letter to a newspaper journalist for 25,000.

"He was living in a fantastical world of his own"

James Comyn, Milench's lawyer

Milhench's lawyer, James Comyn QC, told the court his client's motive for the forgery had been "bizarre".

He said Milhench had decided to deal a "body blow" to the Labour government's election chances in the approaching February election.

"He was living in a fantastical world of his own," Mr Comyn said.

The three-year sentence is the culmination of a disastrous year for Ronald Milhench.

In February his wife, Kathleen, drowned after a car he was driving crashed into Chasewater Lake in Staffordshire.

Milhench managed to swim to shore but police divers later found his wife's body near the submerged vehicle.

An inquest jury later returned a majority verdict of accidental death in spite of Milhench's admission he had recently doubled the insurance on Kathleen's life to 40,000.

In the early 1970s Ronald Milhench sold his insurance broking firm for a substantial profit.

But failed property ventures and a flamboyant lifestyle later led Milhench to run up debts of more than 500,000.

He is expected to appear again in court early next year to face a bankruptcy hearing.

In Context
Ronald Milhench was freed after serving 17 months of his sentence.

After his release he made a complaint to police about his former girlfriend, Patricia Ward.

Milhench said Ms Ward had misappropriated money and property he had entrusted to her during his jail term.

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