Ambassador's son blew £10k on mother's credit card during drug spree

Tony Palmer
10,000 fraud: Benjamin Fretwell leaves court with his mother Mary, whose card he used to fund his addiction to heroin and crack cocaine: Tony Palmer

The son of a former British ambassador blew almost £10,000 on his mother’s stolen credit card to feed his £300-a-day drug habit, a court heard.

Benjamin Fretwell, 50, used the card while staying at his parents’ £2.5 million Kensington apartment, withdrawing cash to fund his addiction to heroin and crack cocaine.

Hammersmith magistrates heard he stayed clear of drugs while working as a ski instructor in the Alps and tending to his family homes in France and Spain, but succumbed to “overwhelming temptation” during a spell in London in December last year.

His mother, Mary Fretwell OBE, founder of pressure group Passports for Pets which campaigns to change animal quarantine laws, was in court to see her son sentenced to eight weeks in prison suspended for a year.

However, his father Sir John Emsley Fretwell, British Ambassador to France from 1982 to 1987, did not attend court for the sentencing hearing.

Lady Fretwell reported her son to police in January after realising through her credit card bill that he had spent £9,484 in just over a month on his drug habit. Fretwell’s parents have now paid for him to go into rehab at a private centre in Essex to tackle his latest drug relapse.

Duncan Jones, defending, told the court: “This was an opportunistic act by a man in the grip of an addiction to drugs. He has let down his mother and father, who over the years have supported him.

“He is addicted to crack cocaine and heroin and has been for the last 10 years and there was an overwhelming temptation when he saw his mother’s bank card.

“His addiction consumed his thoughts and actions and he descended into a £300-a-day drug addiction.” Mr Jones said Fretwell is drug-free while living in Europe but succumbs to “bad influences” during stays in London. He added that Lady Fretwell called police to get help for her son and did not want him to be prosecuted or jailed.

“The desire of the family is that Mr Fretwell is allowed to continue that privately funded therapy and not be a drain on public funds,” he said.

The court heard Fretwell is now planning to sell his flat in Pimlico to repay his mother, who has control over the property and her son’s bank accounts.

Sentencing Fretwell on Friday to 200 hours of community service, magistrate Robert Westlake told him the suspended prison term would be “hanging over your head” if he slipped back into drugs.

“Your mother wants to help you and we are really pleased you are doing something to help yourself,” he said.

Fretwell, who pleaded guilty to fraud by false representation and theft, said his mother would pay £200 in court costs and fees and he would try to pay her back.

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