Who is Britain’s biggest liar? Is it ‘historian’ David Irvine, who has sought to deny that the holocaust ever took place? Or perhaps disgraced ex-Tory minister and London Mayoral candidate Jeffrey Archer, who has invented most of his own personal history and passed himself of as a novelist for many years (not to mention the small matter of perjury)? Maybe your vote would go to another former Tory minister and perjurer, Jonathan Aitken, who even managed to persuade his daughter to lie for him during his unsuccessful libel action against The Guardian? How about Neil Hamilton, yet another former Conservative MP, who took money from Mohammed Al Fayed and then tried to deny it? Whilst all of these men are worthy candidates for the title, The Sleaze can reveal that Britain’s biggest liar is in fact one Charlie Ronce. Although virtually unknown to the general public, Ronce has become infamous in media circles for successfully promulgating some of the greatest lies ever to see print. On several occasions he has succeeded in selling national newspapers and TV producers entirely bogus stories. Whilst many of these stories were exposed as false before publication, several have seen the light of day, resulting in a number of libel actions and expensive out-of-Court settlements. One of the most notorious of the stories to see print occurred in 1992, after Ronce had convinced the editor of a popular tabloid that the amazingly youthful good looks of popular singer and professional virgin Sir Cliff Richard were due to a diabolical pact made in 1957. Ronce introduced one of the tabloid’s reporters to 67-year old Reggie Painter, supposedly a former High Priest of the Willesden Satanist Chapter, who claimed to have presided over the ceremony in Highgate cemetery, during which Beelzebub himself appeared. In reality, Painter was a retired school caretaker from Neasden who drank in the same pub as Ronce’s father. As a result of the bargain struck that night, according to Painter, Cliff Richard got to retain his unfeasibly good looks, but at a terrible price. Once every month he would turn into a ravening monster, forced to sacrifice a virgin and bathe in her blood in order to return to human form. According to Ronce, Cliff Richard’s involvement with the Church was merely a convenient cover for his activities, (pointing out that the moral campaigners had originally condemned Richard’s performances as being too carnal – perhaps suspecting his terrible secret), and gave him easy access to numerous virginal choristers. Ronce claimed to have photographs of Cliff Richard actually lying in a bath full of blood, taken secretly at his London home. He also had the testimonies of several maids from hotels all around the world, who complained of the unusual dark red rings they had found around Cliff Richard’s bath after he had checked out. Amazingly, Ronce was paid £5,000 for the story. Within hours of the story being printed Sir Cliff’s solicitors had started legal proceedings for libel, thousands of copies of the newspaper had been recalled and pulped, and Ronce had fled the country.
Ronce, a bus driver by profession, is an accomplished fantasist, frequently adopting fake identities in order to gain access to the rich and famous. In 1989 he successfully posed as a gyneacologist for three months at an exclusive London clinic and obtained photographs of Princess Diana’s fallopian tubes, which he tried to sell to the Daily Star. One of his earliest successes came in 1981, when a Dutch magazine paid him £250 for a story that Elvis Presley was alive and well and working in a transvestite bar in Brussels. The story was accompanied by several pictures purporting to show an overweight Elvis wearing a slinky red dress, black fishnet stockings and high heels. These later turned out to be photos of Ronce’s Uncle Walter, a former Elvis impersonator who was undergoing a sex change. Flushed with this success, Ronce set about concocting another elaborate showbiz lie, this time involving claims that Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jim Morrison had been assassinated by the CIA. Posing as an ex-CIA agent living in exile in London, he succeeded in selling the story to an American scriptwriter. It later formed the basis of low-budget movie meister Larry Buchanan’s 1984 film Down on Us (described as “absolute shite” in Leonard Maltin’s Films on TV Guide, 1987 edition). Ronce followed up this success by selling a story to John Craven’s Newsround, which alleged that much-loved presenter of kiddies wildlife programmes, Johnny Morris, was actually a practising vivisectionist in his spare time. Elaborately faked film footage apparently showed Morris carving up furry animals for kicks. Posing as an undercover RSPCA investigator, Ronce told a Newsround reporter that Morris was using his position as a presenter to steal animals from zoos and wildlife parks for use in his distasteful hobby. Sensing a major exclusive which could rocket him into serious news-reporting, John Craven sanctioned the story. However, just before broadcast the hoax was uncovered and the story replaced by an item about a skateboarding mackerel.
Ronce then proceeded to sell a similar story to Le Monde in Paris; this time claiming that actress and animal rights campaigner Brigitte Bardot was actually a keen amateur taxidermist – often ‘rescuing’ animals from sanctuaries simply so she could mount and stuff them. Ronce alleged that she was about to buy a failing zoo in Lyons not, as she claimed, to save the animals and return them to the wild, but rather to gas them all before stuffing them. Again, the hoax was uncovered at the last minute and the story pulled, but not before Ronce had walked away with £2,000. Although forced to flee overseas in the wake of the 1993 Cliff Richard scandal, Ronce returned to Britain in 1998, using a false passport and papers. Claiming to be one Ray ‘Big Boy’ Skaggs, a former Able Seaman, he succeeded in convincing reporters from a broadsheet daily newspaper that he had been Prince Andrew’s gay lover during the Falklands war. When the paper presented Buckingham Palace with Skaggs’ lurid tales of sharing a hammock with Prince Andrew, and of being tossed off on the ocean wave, a major constitutional crisis ensued. However, suspicions were aroused when it was found that the Royal Navy had no trace of an Able Seaman Skaggs. Ronce once again vanished before the authorities could question him, several thousand pounds better off thanks to the newspaper. Whilst Ronce has yet to resurface, it can only be a matter of time before one his lies once again graces the front-page of a national newspaper.