A retired police officer, a prison chaplain and a Methodist minister all paid warm tributes at a service of thanksgiving for Norwich pensioner and loveable rogue Doug Hartman (right), once labelled publicly as The King of the Con Men.
Octogenarian Doug Hartman, who died on April 3, 2005, was once a notorious fraudster but his life was turned upon its head when he met God in a prison cell in 1986.
Doug was dubbed the King of the Con Men by The Sun newspaper in the early 80s after being jailed for 11 years at the Old Bailey for committing 476 offences of fraud.
The whole British cheque banking system was changed as a result of hundreds of frauds committed by Doug in a life of crime which stretched from 1945 to 1986. Between those years Doug committed over 1000 crimes and was given sentences totalling 39 years, of which he served 25 of them behind bars.
Doug’s path to a life of crime began during the second world war when from the D-Day landings on he worked as a driver for BBC war correspondent Richard Dimbleby. He witnessed the terrible sufferings at the Buchanwald concentration camps and managed to get inside Hitler’s infamous Berlin bunker. He then spent a year attending the Nuremburg war trials.
His criminal career began immediately after the war when a Russian soldier offered him an incredible £1000 for his cheap watch. Doug sensed an opportunity and bought as many watches from Brussels as he could lay his hands on and sold them for a profit of £30,000. With this source of income, he started gambling and then committed countless frauds to fund his addiction. Counterfeit soap, counter-signed cheques and a daring £15,000 fraud at Harrods followed as well as many years in prison for his crimes.
But in 1986 his life changed dramatically when he met God in a cell at Wandsworth prison shortly before being transferred to Norwich prison. After his release Doug put his failed marriage back together by renewing his vows with wife Val who had stood by him for many years during his imprisonment and remained a constant support for him until he died.
In 1995 Doug’s biography, King of the Con Men, was published by Lion Publishing and Doug spent the next several years driving all around the country speaking inside every single prison, as well as many churches to tell his story of forgiveness and hope.
Doug started to write his biography while working in the library at Norwich prison and when he was released he joined Wroxham Road Methodist Church (Rocky Road) where he could never do enough for minister Rev Charlie Crane and his fellow members.
As well as TV, radio and press appearances, and his preaching engagements, Doug devoted much time to helping the Christian Saltmine Trust and produce the Good News for Norwich newspaper.
At his thanksgiving service, Rev Peter Edwards said: “Doug was a real ambassador for the Lord. He was testament to God’s amazing saving grace and his ability to set people free from addiction and temptation.”
Former police superintendent Peter Barnes said: “When Doug spoke in a prison he was cheered onto the platform as a hero but by the end you could hear a pin drop as he told his story and the folly of crime. He loved and served God for the last 20 years of his life.”
Rev Charlie Crane said: “In that prison cell Doug realised that he was wasting his life on the road to nowhere and he was transformed. After that he never lost an opportunity to serve God.”
Doug is now serving God in the total freedom of His Presence.