A WOMAN said to be a key player in the Windlestone Hall fraud is living the high life in America as her father continues to languish in jail, The Northern Echo can reveal.

Meagan Davenport, also known as Smith, lives in California and is the fiancé of a successful racehorse trainer.

Her father William Davenport was jailed for six years in 2016 for fraud after securing a mortgage from Barclays Bank on the Grade II listed property near Rushyford, County Durham, by falsely claiming to be a US tycoon earning £430,000 a year.

Loading article content

He was helped by Meagan, now a licensed horse trainer herself, who set up a software firm in order to launder money for the fraud.

She and her mother Ann were described by prosecutors as “complicit” in William Davenport’s financial dealings who said they would also have faced criminal charges had they remained in the UK.

Keen horsewoman Meagan is engaged to be married to her race-horse trainer boyfriend, who has amassed more than 2.5m US dollars in career earnings to date, and is based at the Golden Gate Fields racetrack in Berkeley, California.

The couple, who have a house in California, are expecting their first baby in May and are regularly pictured at the racetrack, which is popular with celebrities and overlooks San Francisco Bay.

Meagan, who studied at university in the UK, and Ann both fled to the States a month after William Davenport’s arrest by police. They spent time living in Kentucky, before Meagan moved to California.

Ann Davenport is thought to be in contact with her daughter and understood to be using one of any number of false names such as Ann Russack Crawght, Ann Russack Davenport, Ann Russack Davenport-Carrington, Ann Carrington and Ann Russack Smith.

Her husband from whom she is separated, William Davenport, a three times former bankrupt, bought Windlestone – the family home of former Conservative Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden – from previous owner Durham County Council for just £241,000.

The family hoped to refurbish the 30-bedroomed property and create an equestrian centre on the land surrounding it.

But the proposals were thwarted by planners and never materialised. Last year The Echo revealed the parlous state of the hall, which had been targeted by thieves and vandals following the Davenports’ departure.

William Davenport has been serving his sentence in Stockton’s Holme House jail and it is likely to be next year at the earliest before he will be considered for parole.

Police and the Crown Prosecution Service have been considering whether there is sufficient evidence to charge Meagan and Ann Davenport with fraud and examining whether there is a framework in place to properly return them to the UK.

A Durham Constabulary spokeswoman said: “This case remains under continuing review by Durham Constabulary and the CPS.”

A source in the US told the Echo: “Meagan has dual nationality due to her mother being an English citizen and her father being an American citizen and has an American passport under the name of Smith.

“Many people would like to see justice served on her, however I think it would be too hard to extradite her.”