A city solicitor who took almost £2m from clients' accounts had done so trying to chase winnings he was duped into believing he had won as part of a Spanish lottery, a court has heard.

Hugh Lansdell, a former senior partner at Norfolk firm Hansells, took a total of £1,963,659.44 between 2015 and 2017 after becoming convinced he had won the lottery and needed the money to secure his winnings.

Eastern Daily Press: Hansells in NorwichHansells in Norwich (Image: Google Maps)Norwich Crown Court heard the 74-year-old, a devout Christian, had wanted to give money to his local church so it could be renovated as well as establish a hostel in the city.

Eastern Daily Press: Norwich Crown CourtNorwich Crown Court (Image: Peter Walsh, Newsquest)He believed "God had answered his prayers" after he received a letter about an £825,000 lottery win.

Richard Jory, prosecuting, said Lansdell was informed that "in order to release the funds" he "had to himself make payments" in order to access the funds "he believed he was entitled to".

The court heard the initial demand was for £41,000 but the non-resident tax he would have to pay to get the winnings later increased to £91,000 after he was informed there had been an error and his winnings were in fact £1.825m.

Ultimately Lansdell was to be informed he had won in excess of £10m with the non-resident tax needed more than £228,000.

Eastern Daily Press: Hugh LansdellHugh Lansdell (Image: Newsquest)Mr Jory said Lansdell "initially made payments from his own and his wife's account" to the point the funds were "exhausted".

But after that and "still believing he was entitled to winnings" he "withdrew funds out of client's accounts without their consent".

Mr Jory said after the "unusual movement of funds" was first detected by Hansells a meeting was arranged in 2017.

Lansdell, who took £1.5m from his clients and £350,000 from two charities where he was a trustee, initially told the firm the money had been invested as part of a scheme he had been introduced to by his sister-in-law.

Although this was not true he was told by the firm it was "not appropriate" and to return the funds immediately.

After failing to do so he was suspended from Hansells before ultimately being struck off as a solicitor in 2019.

Lansdell, of The Close, Norwich, pleaded guilty to fraud by abuse of position in 2020 but later vacated his plea.

Eastern Daily Press: Hugh LansdellHugh Lansdell (Image: Newsquest)He was to stand trial but appeared at court on Friday (September 22) for sentence after having pleaded guilty earlier this year.

Recorder John Hardy said Lansdell had "suffered a spectacular fall from grace" and was now "broken".

He said: "You've ended up in this position for one reason only and that was you yourself were a victim of an advance fee fraud".

But having been duped Recorder Hardy said Lansdell turned "not so much in greed but in desperation to your clients' accounts".

He said all of those clients put their trust in him and he "betrayed that trust" and had told a multitude of lies to try and cover up what happened.

Sentencing Lansdell to four years imprisonment, Recorder Hardy said he had also betrayed himself, his wife, his clients as well as all solicitors in general, insisting "your conduct had besmirched the entire profession".

Will Carter, mitigating, said Lansdell broken man who himself had been a "victim" of fraud.

He said Lansdell, who was "deeply religious" and a devout Christian, had been "taken in".

Mr Carter said he had believed "God was answering his prayers".

He said Lansdell was "blinded" not by greed but "blinded by his faith" and had been a "result of blind faith".

Mr Carter said his fall from grace had been profound with him having "lost almost everything" including his wife and he now lived on his own having been declared bankrupt.

The barrister said Lansdell had lost his own money, his wife's money, his home, his friends, his self-esteem, and his reputation.

He said he was "about as low as anyone could be" adding the case "could not be more tragic".