Navy helicopter pilot used Portsmouth girlfriend’s bank account to feed his gambling habits

HMS Seahawk in Cornwall. Picture: Trevor Harris (CC BY-SA 2.0)
HMS Seahawk in Cornwall. Picture: Trevor Harris (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A TOP helicopter pilot was kicked out of the Royal Navy today for making loan applications in the names of two girlfriends in a bid to pay off debts of more than £35,000.

Lieutenant Commander Nick Bell cleared out the bank account of one girlfriend to fund his habit and then started a relationship with a female officer from Portsmouth, who gave him thousands more.

A court martial heard 'manipulative' Bell, who served in Iraq, had already racked up the debts when he met girlfriend Lucy Holt, who is a Leading Hand in the navy.

Despite Miss Holt trying to help him pay them off - which even caused her to miss payments on her car and lose it - and encouraging him to seek help, the Naval officer continued to gamble.

The 38-year-old secretly used Miss Holt's details to apply for money from payday loan companies and 'cleared' her bank account to fund his gambling while she was away serving in Afghanistan.

Bell, of HMS Seahawk, a Merlin helicopter base near Helston, Cornwall, admitted 12 counts of fraud and one count of making a false bank statement.

Prosecutor Emily Maunders told the court Miss Holt tried to help him with his financial struggles and as she attempted to support him each month she fell behind on payments for her own car, which led to it being repossessed.

Miss Maunders said: ‘She was aware he had financial issues, which led her to help him by obtaining payday loans in her name to offer financial support.

‘She also helped him with his gambling, Miss Holt gave him cash to get gambling credit. She also paid for food for him even though she would sometimes have to go without.’

Miss Maunders told the court Bell also used Miss Holt's bank account for online gambling with Ladbrokes and Bet365 while she was serving in Afghanistan.

She said: ‘The final two charges of fraud in relation to Miss Holt are on betting sites, using her bank account without her knowledge.

‘The first is 21 transactions made from her account to Ladbrokes to a total of £836.73.

‘The final charge relating to Miss Holt is 53 transactions from her bank account to Bet365 for bets placed to the total of £2,170.21.’

Handing Bell a suspended jail term and kicking him out the Royal Navy, Judge Blackett said he had used 'emotional blackmail' to get his way, knowing what he was doing was wrong.

The judge said: ‘Over a sustained period, you carried out a number of fraudulent activities taking advantage of two young women in your chain of command and both junior to you.

‘Both gave you a lot during the relationships and the effect on their lives has been significant. You used emotional blackmail to stop them reporting what you were doing.

‘You have clearly shown you are not fit to be an officer in the Royal Navy. These offences are so serious that you must be discharged.’