Dine and dash swindler racked up £8,000 in unpaid bills due to ‘caring for elderly parents’

The Angel Inn in Wangford - Dine and dash swindler racked up £8,000 in unpaid bills due to ‘caring for elderly parents’
The Angel Inn in Wangford, Suffolk, was one of several hotels that Craig Sharp indulged himself for free at - East Anglia News Service

A dine and dash conman who racked up £8,000 in unpaid hotel and restaurant fees did so to “escape” from caring for his elderly parents, a court heard.

Craig Sharp, 52, ran up bills at five venues across East Anglia by leaving without paying after tucking into luxurious meals and buying rounds of drinks.

Chelmsford magistrates’ heard Sharp stayed at the Kingscliff Hotel in Clacton-on-Sea, Essex, and accumulated a bill of more than £5,000 between April and August 2023.

He then stayed at a 15th-century Tudor house called Channels Hotel in Chelmsford between November 15 and 19, running up a bill of £214.50.

Sharp also checked into The Angel Inn in Wangford, Suffolk, on Saturday November 18, for one night. He extended his stay by 24 hours – having a meal and several drinks on both evenings – before leaving in the morning without paying his £600 bill. Sharp is said to have even bought a round for everyone in the bar, allowing their drinks to be put on his tab.

After leaving that establishment, he checked straight into another hotel called The Angel in Halesworth, Suffolk, a 500-year-old family-run guest house. During his three-night stay he drank 15 pints of Birra Moretti, eight pints of Guinness, seven rum and cokes, three pints of Aspall along with five bags of Mini Cheddars and three meals and other sides.

Craig Sharp
Sharp enjoyed 33 drinks during his three-night stay at The Angel in Halesworth - Essex Police
Craig Sharp
Sharp, seen here during his culinary tour, worked his way across Essex and Suffolk - East Anglia News Service

Staff grew suspicious when he snuck out early following the third night. He sent the independent business an email saying he planned to return later to pay the £450 tab.

He rounded off his tour of East Anglia with a seaside stay at a hotel in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, where he ran up a bill of more than £1,500.

Lucy Osborn, defending, said he was the sole carer for his elderly parents, and had carried out the offences as a form of escapism, saying: ‘His trips were an escape and a relief’.

She added that his underlying problems would not be fixed by sending him to prison.

Sharp, of Dockfield Avenue, Harwich, was jailed on Wednesday at Chelmsford magistrates’ court after pleading guilty to five counts of fraud by false representation.

He was jailed for 48 weeks in total for those offences and was also ordered to pay compensation in full, a total of £2,579.82, to the four hotels involved.

Sharp has a history of convictions for similar dishonesty offences dating back to as early as 1990.

He was last jailed in 2021 for four offences of fraud by false representation which he committed before the 2020 coronavirus lockdown.