AS BASILDON mayor Mo Larkin’s consort Dr John Handley rubs shoulders with celebrities, politicians, and dignitaries.
The couple represent the borough at civic functions, where he tells stories of life as a legal expert, international diplomat, and war hero.
He has been photographed with singer Will Young and football legend Sir Geoff Hurst, all through his relationship with the mayor.
Yet, the Echo can expose him as a “Walter Mitty” character with no military service, recognised law qualification, or diplomatic experience.
Mr Handley, 66, of Eastern Esplanade, Southend, is in fact a former TV repair man now running a cleaning business.
Yet he has led Remembrance Sunday parades with Mrs Larkin, including last year when he saluted next to Army veteran and BillericayMP John Baron.
A Royal Navy spokeswoman said: “We have no records for this individual.”
Nigel Smith, Basildon Labour group leader, said: “It is disgusting he could say he is a distinguished person and war hero.
“He and the mayor have led me to believe as recently as July he was a naval officer, worked with the United Nations, Foreign Office and Tony Blair and still exchanges Christmas presents with David Miliband.”
He claims to have aided the peace process in Palestine, since being injured in “friendly fire”
during Royal Navy service in the 1990s Gulf War.
Yet there wasno trace of him as a diplomat at the UN or Foreign Office, or working for Mr Blair.
Mr Smith added: “Mr Handley seems to have certain privileges, attend certain events and is on first name terms with the chief executive. If we can’t believe a word he says it calls what the mayor has said about him into question.”
He drives the mayor to events and he says it saves the taxpayer as she claims no expenses for mileage.
Through driving the mayor, he has enjoyed trips to Basildon’s twin town Meaux in France, with accommodation and food provided as hospitality.
Meals and shows have been bought for him by organisations welcoming the mayor to local events. “Dr Handley” has been thanked for his work as consort during full council by Mrs Larkin, council leader Tony Ball and former council leader Malcolm Buckley.
He even claims to have tried to influence Mr Ball against axing a hot meals service in elderly day centres.
A council spokesman said: “Although Mr Handley has no official council position, we recognise as the mayor’s partner he has supported her and helped her carry out a very considerable amount of good work.
“Allegations being levelled at him are a private matter. They are not related to council policies and should therefore in no way reflect on its reputation.”
Mr Ball added: “It is disingenuous if someone has made up their military service, but I can assure John Handley has no influence over council policy.”
When told the Royal Navy had no record of him, Mr handley said: “No they won’t have. That’s why I don’t go public. But I’m not going to go into it. Whose business is it really?”
He later said reluctantly, that after he graduated as an engineer, the Royal Navy wanted him to join to develop equipment, but being a Jehovah’s Witness prevented this as the religion disowns anyone in the military.
To allow him to join without his congregation’s knowledge, and even behind his family’s back, he said the US and Royal navies had colluded with him.
He said he joined the US Navy and was seconded to the Royal Navy, so all records were in the US, but destroyed when he left.
He said: “Mo questioned me before when I first met her and I had to show her evidence of what went on.”
He produced an e-mail on his laptop he said was sent to him three years ago to prove his service to Mrs Larkin, claiming it was from a man who served with him in the US in 1992, but had since died.
He said running a cleaning firm did not prevent his “diplomatic” work, but refused to discuss any specific roles.
A Royal Navy spokeswoman said: “The Royal Navy would not collude with anyone. It would not be in the interests of the service. Under no circumstances would there be any agreement to destroy records.”
Mrs Larkin said she understood Mr Handley was already going through a divorce when she met him in 2006.
She added: “I did not even know he was a Jehovah’sWitness, but he has explained to me why there is no record of him in the Navy and I have accepted that. I know someone who was in the SAS and there was no record of them. He has now showed me his Ashley University paperwork and I am happy this is genuine.”
Asked about his remarks about working with the UN, Foreign Office and President Obama, she said: “I don’t know everything he gets up to – I don’t live with him – but I told him to stop the tweets.”
To buy a copy of the full three-page investigation published in the Echo on November 5, 2013 call newspaper sales on 01268 469339.
If you received legal advice from Mr Handley email email@example.com or call him on 01268 469304.