A FORMER bricklayer who was living on benefits duped a council into selling him the Grade II*- listed childhood home of the ex Prime Minister Sir Anthony Eden.

In an audacious and “sophisticated” £2.9m fraud William Davenport, 60, spun a web of deceit that ensnared aristocrats and financiers on both sides of the Atlantic, his trial in September 2016 heard.

He was jailed for six years by a judge who told him: “You seek to give the appearance of wealth and standing but you have searched for a lifestyle without any means of paying for it.”

In buying sprawling Windlestone Hall, the 40-bedroom boyhood home of the 1950s Conservative Prime Minister, Davenport presented himself as a Beverley Hillsbased tycoon who had previously lived in the £1m Great Brampton Hall in Herefordshire.

In fact he was a near-penniless con artist, born William Green, who had hoodwinked Great Brampton’s owners, Lord and Lady Pidgeon, into allowing him to register their home as his address.

Armed with the fake address, falsified documents claiming he earned £430,000-a-year and claiming he had a Barclays Wealth Account, Davenport fraudulently took a huge mortgage after tricking Durham County Council into believing he was a legitimate buyer.

Davenport, his wife Ann and daughter Meaghan, said they would restore the magnificent 25 acre 19th century manor, described by English Heritage as one of the most important buildings in the north of England, to its former glory.

However an “eagle-eyed” mortgage clerk spotted a discrepancy in a single forged P60 document and the fraud “collapsed like a pack of cards.”

On Teesside, a councillor demanded a ‘sinking’ access road bridge to Teesside Park shopping centre be replaced.

However, Stockton Borough Council has argued that £1.5million of repair work had proved far more cost effective than the £28million it would need to replace the bridge.

The slip road to Teesside Park off the A66 sits on a peat bog and subsidence can cause cracks and holes on the road surface.

Stockton Council was spending an average of £20,000 in repair work over ten years before making more extensive £1.5million improvements last year.

The new repairs involved extending traffic light cables and road resurfacing that covered cracks in the surface.

Some councillors have raised concerns that the authority could face financial implications should the access sink in the future.

In 2010 a metre-wide hole appeared under the road and there have been several other incidents of subsidence causing cracking to the surface.

Teesside Park is worth millions of pounds to the Tees Valley economy and is a major source of employment.

It would be impossible to close the shopping centre while the bridge is replaced at a cost of £10million, without first building another which would cost £18million.

The bridge was built in 1990 and has been sinking ever since.