‘There I was, a boy of three, trying desperately not to burst into tears as I watched Dad conduct his orchestra through Johannes Brahms’ ‘Third Symphony’.
‘I’d never witnessed such magic. By the final movement’s climax, I was shaking uncontrollably. Tears flooded my eyes. I’d entered a beautiful sound world – and I decided, in that incredible moment, I’m going to be the best musician ever.
Alex Wood was born into music. His maestro dad was a concert pianist who performed with some of the most famous classical artists of the 20th century, including the legendary late pianist John Ogdon and the composer Sir Michael Tippett.
Likewise, Alex’s mum was an exceptional talent in the classical music arena. At nineteen, she became co-principal French horn player in the Royal Opera House Orchestra – a glittering career she selflessly abandoned when she fell pregnant with Alex in the early 1980s.
Deeply moved by his father’s conducting of Brahms’ Third, Alex was determined to follow in his parents’ musical footsteps. Aged five, he discovered his passion and gift for the violin – and quickly became a child prodigy and virtuoso.
In his early teens, Alex passed grade eight with distinction and won a junior scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music. He then went on to win places at the prestigious Purcell School of Music and the Royal College of Music. From there, Alex’s career on the classical stage skyrocketed. Alongside performing at venues like the Royal Festival Hall, Royal Opera House and the Beethoven-Haus, Bonn, he secured commercial engagements, contributing to soundtracks for blockbuster films, including Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. And in 2002, Alex took to the stage at Buckingham Palace, playing for the likes of Dame Shirley Bassey, Sir Elton John and Tom Jones at the late Queen’s Golden Jubilee concert.
Now in his early twenties and on the cusp of an international solo career, Alex was living the dream – until his ‘beautiful sound world’ came crashing down when, in 2004, he was struck by Repetitive Strain Injury in his right, bowing wrist. 'I had to cancel engagements. The bookings ceased. The voyage was over. I was devastated.'
Alex’s life spiralled out of control. Lost without his cherished violin, he turned to excessive partying. He developed a £500-a-week cocaine habit and became a heavy drinker.
By December 2014, Alex was homeless. Armed with his remaining possessions – a laptop, mobile phone, holdall packed with clothes and four-pound coins – he ‘bunked’ the Tube to Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5, posing as a weary traveller awaiting a connecting flight. A Google search for accommodation yielded grim results; his four pounds wouldn't even cover the cost of a hostel. Then, while wistfully looking at hotels, he found Claridge’s in Mayfair. An idea sprung to mind.
It took Alex less than five minutes to compose the email – sent from a fake account under the name ‘Quentin Bingham-Smythe, Private Secretary to Lord Alexander Wood’ – requesting a four-night stay in Claridge’s £680-per-night Junior Suite.
Astonishingly, the reservations team replied to Alex’s email, confirming his booking – with an upgrade for ‘His Lordship’ to boot.
Hours later, Alex was greeted by fawning staff as he entered the Signature Suite at Claridge’s. And just like that, Alex Wood, who once wowed audiences worldwide with his stunning violin performances, had become a conman.
In a move he now deeply regrets, Alex spent the next seven months living a ‘life of luxury’ as he scammed most of London’s poshest hotels, running up bills of up to £10,000-a-time. He posed as the 12th Duke of Marlborough, Lord Jamie Spencer and a British Airways executive. But his days of champagne and caviar finally ended when he was caught by undercover police officers at The May Fair Hotel.
After pleading guilty to several counts of fraud by false representation, Alex received a three-and-a-half-year jail sentence. However, being locked-up in tough HMP Wandsworth with other serial fraudsters did not prove much of a deterrent for Alex – and his worst crimes were yet to come.
In Facing the Music: From Her Majesty’s Palaces to Her Majesty’s Prisons, Alex tells how he and a fellow inmate plotted a multi-million-pound cyber fraud racket from behind bars, which they then executed immediately upon their release – and were both subsequently caught in a massive undercover police sting. Again, Alex admitted his guilt and was sentenced to a further seven years in prison.
Since his release in January 2022, Alex has been working on educating the public and businesses in how to protect themselves from potential cyber scammers. He is booked as a keynote speaker at the Counter Fraud 2023 Conference at the QE2 Centre, alongside banking and security chiefs. Meanwhile, he is also developing specialised fraud-focussed offending behaviour courses and is in talks with the Ministry of Justice to deliver these classes throughout UK prisons.
While Alex acknowledges he cannot undo the trauma he caused his victims, he is deeply remorseful and eager to ‘give back to society’.
Devastating mistakes and all, this is his story.
From the age of thirteen, Alex Wood won a string of top scholarships to study the violin and viola, including the Purcell School and the Royal College of Music.
He won numerous prestigious competitions, including the coveted Theodore Holland Prize at the Royal Academy of Music.
Alex’s subsequent career included performances at the Royal Festival Hall, Royal Opera House, Wigmore Hall, Beethoven - Haus Halle (Bonn) and Capitol Hill, Washington DC. He’s played under some of the greatest ever conductors, including Sir Colin Davis, Sir Roger Norrington, ...
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