A CRUEL serial fraudster left a woman heartbroken after convincing her to marry him - while he was actually on day release from prison.

Raymond McDonald, 45, even apparently duped the justice system by appearing before a judge at crown court under the name he assumed to befriend the unsuspecting woman.

McDonald was jailed for seven and a half years in 2016 by a judge who called him a "gutless and predatory serial fraudster" with 59 convictions, mostly for preying on vulnerable women.

Yet appeared as Raymond Bailes - a name he made up as part of his ruse that he was the son of the owner of a successful car dealership.

The judge was told nothing of his past targeting of women or that he had previously appeared before the same court under a different name, only that his previous convictions were "mostly for fraud offences."

His victim called for an enquiry into how he was able to appear under his new name, which she believes he may have changed by deed poll.

The Northern Echo:

McDonald told the woman he was a multi millionaire with a villa in Cyprus - a lie he used on several previous victims - and convinced her he was working for his wealthy father during spells he spent away from her.

In fact he was going back to jail each evening, serving out what remained of his licence period.

He met the woman on a dating site during what was supposed to be a steady reintegration into society, holding down a job during the day while going back to jail at night.

McDonald told the 45-year-old health worker that he lived in "a big house in Yarm" - neglecting to mention it was HMP Kirklevington Grange, a category D prison on the edge of the North Yorkshire town.

The woman, from Redcar, alleges she has been left £78,000 in debt by McDonald. Police are currently investigating her case.

In the course of their six month relationship he proposed to her and said they would marry at his property in Cyprus.

Changing his plan at the last minute, he then convinced her to stage a marriage so her family would not think badly of him and the couple had wedding-style photographs taken at a country house hotel in Cheshire.

Her world fell apart when, in April, she discovered the truth by Googling his real name - finding court appearances dating back to 2011 detailing identical con tricks to the ones he employed on her.

McDonald, originally from Thornley, County Durham, appeared before Teesside Crown Court on Wednesday this week under the name Raymond Bailes.

He admitted a charge of being unlawfully at large under Section 1 of the Prisoners Return to Custody Act 1995.

The court was told he went missing from Kirklevington on January 9 and walked into Durham police station on April 3, where he told officers: “I haven’t returned to prison because I’m in a relationship and didn’t want her to know, but that’s all over now.”

His solicitor advocate Simon Walker told Judge Peter Armstrong: “It was while he was on day-release he met a lady he was subsequently to marry.

“He became so fearful as to what may happen if she was to find out precisely what his status was, he decided not to tell her.

“He said ‘I fell in love, there is nothing more to it than that. I have never been in love before. I could not handle it. I didn’t handle it properly’."

The 84 days he spent on the run was added to his sentence by the Ministry of Justice and he was moved to a category B jail to serve the rest of his time behind bars, with a new release date of April 15th next year.

Judge Armstrong passed a sentence of five months for the offence, but ordered it to run concurrently with his original seven and a half year sentence, saying he did not see the need to extend his sentence beyond the 84 days imposed by the MoJ.

The cruelty of his past offending nor the plight of the woman he planned to marry were mentioned in court.

Following the case the woman fought back tears as she said: "He has completely destroyed my life, he is a manipulative, cruel liar who has spent his whole life deceiving and robbing women of their money.

"It looks as though he has also conned the courts. He made up the name Bailes to deceive me, I can't believe he was allowed to use it in court even if he did change it by deed poll. There should be an investigation into how that was allowed to happen.

"He has a long history of offending as Raymond McDonald and the judge should have known exactly who he was and exactly what he did."

She told how McDonald left her "broken and crying every day."

The mum, who asked to remain anonymous, said: "I met him on the Plenty of Fish dating site in November and he appeared very confident and charming, he told me exactly what I wanted to hear and I never suspected his whole story was a lie.

"He told me that he was the son of Simon Bailes, the owner of the big car dealership and that he was helping his dad out by delivering vans for him at night.

"But what was actually happening that he was going back to prison each evening when we first met.

"He told me he had a big house in Yarm, but he didn't mention it happened to be the prison.

The Northern Echo:

"He said he had £3.2m in bank accounts and a villa in Cyprus, but he was struggling to access his money and convinced me to take out loans in my name, which I did.

"After January he was able to spend more time with me and moved into my home - I now realise that's the time that he was on the run from jail when he stopped going back at night.

"He got down on one knee and proposed to me and I was caught up in the romance of it, we were going to fly out to Cyprus to marry in his villa out there. I was very happy and just didn't see what he was doing, which now makes me feel foolish and embarrassed.

"At the last minute he called off the trip to Cyprus but I now realise that's because he doesn't have a passport in the name he was using.

"Instead we went to Mottram Hall hotel and he said we should pretend to get married. I bought a lovely dress, not a wedding dress but one suitable to be married in, and he put on a smart suit and we had out pictures taken.

"He clearly wanted to appear that we'd got married as planned because calling it off would have turned everyone against him and he wanted to continue deceiving us all."

She became suspicious and her sister-in-law rang the Simon Bailes dealership where he had apparently been working as part of a scheme to integrate offenders back into society.

The woman discovered his original name of Raymond McDonald and Googled him.

"My whole world fell apart," she said.

She discovered he had at least seven female victims across the North-East and that he'd previously used Plenty of Fish to meet the "vulnerable" victims.

in 2011 Newcastle Crown Court was told he posed as an army major to con two victims of £4,000 and £6,000. Judge Esmond Faulkes jailed him for four years and called him an "inveterate confidence trickster."

In 2016 Judge Stephen Ashurst imposed the seven and half year sentence for his fleecing of five women.

Passing sentence, Judge Stephen Ashurst said: "McDonald is a gutless man, without shame.

“He is a serial fraudster who lives in a different world to the rest of us when it comes to honesty and the impact our actions have on others.

“These offences were predatory and premeditated against women who were vulnerable due to recent divorce or loss of their partner.

“Each suffered tremendously, and I am satisfied Mr McDonald's behaviour has genuinely ruined lives."