Councillor’s ghostly goings-on
Mike Snowling says he just wanted to help get a burgeoning television company off the ground, but he ended up going to court to get his money back and leaving it penniless.
RICHARD BALLS reports on the strange tale of the district council chairman, the ghost hunter and the clairvoyant.
He has no interest in the paranormal or ghostly goings-on. But when Mike Snowling’s clairvoyant friend encouraged him to fund a TV project specialising in the supernatural, he agreed to help. It was a move that would, aptly, come back to haunt him.
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The chairman of Broadland District Council was last week awarded £17,000 and £12,000 in legal costs when Exeter County Court upheld his claim that he had not invested in Galaxi Television, but given a personal loan to its co-founder Ross Hemsworth.
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The case brought to an end a long-running feud between the two men and has left Mr Hemsworth with crippling debts.
It also brought to light the series of loans made by Mr Snowling to a man who, by his own admission, he did not know well, and his close friendship with Marion Goodfellow, a psychic who has made appearances on TV shows.
Explaining his involvement in the ghostly enterprise, Mr Snowling told the EDP he was “too generous” by nature and simply wanted to help his clairvoyant friend.
“I said I would lend him money,” said Mr Snowling. “I sponsored him and Marion to go to America to investigate the paranormal in this place in New Jersey.
“I paid him £4800 and I went out there with my wife to make a holiday of it. He was insisting that I did not lend him money, but invested it in Galaxi. But the cheque for £4800 was made out to Ross Hemsworth Productions and it was made clear in court that when that money was paid, Galaxi was not even trading at that time.”
Ross Hemsworth could not have less in common with Mike Snowling. He is a TV producer and director, who runs The Phantom or Fraud Project and whose credits include Haunted Halloween Live (ITV1 and 2), Ghost Detectives and Ghostwatch Live (both screened on UK Horizons). Based in Exbourne, Devon, for many years he was involved in the music industry as a producer, songwriter, manager and record plugger, and his website lists Gary Numan, Chas & Dave and The Nolans among his managerial credits. He also ran a company called Winners Worldwide Ltd, publicising sports stars like gold medal winning sprinter Linford Christie, and has worked in club and venue management.
In sharp contrast, Mr Snowling has led a quieter, less high-profile life. He has served as a Broadland District Council member for Brundall since 1998 and currently enjoys the chains of office as chairman. He is also known in the village as the proprietor of Shiels Court, a care home for the elderly situated close to his home in Braydeston Avenue.
It was their respective friendships with Marion Goodfellow, however, that brought the two men together when they found themselves at her flat in January 2002.
Ross Hemsworth was full of talk about his television project and in particular a proposed visit to the US to carry out research, but there was one hitch – he needed capital to get the business off the ground and to buy camera equipment.
Mr Snowling says their fascination with the supernatural went over the top of his head, but as a friend of Marion’s for 35 years, he was keen to support the project. He also later agreed to lend him a £550 digital video camera that the TV producer had admired.
Mr Snowling and his wife Veronica joined the ghost-hunting party when they flew out to America and, for a while at least, it seemed an amicable partnership. Mr Snowling, who paid £4,815 for the US visit, was obviously impressed with Galaxi Television because between January and May 2002, he handed over £8,228.41 to cover equipment, wages and other costs, including a telephone bill for £74.35.
An invoice from the US company Independent Phone Rentals Ltd for the calls made from Ross Hemsworth’s mobile phone was sent to ‘Galaxy Television’, but to an address in Shack Lane, Blofield. Mr Hemsworth claims that it shows Mr Snowling was involved with his company, but the councillor insisted this was never the case. Indeed, he rejected the offer of a shareholding in Galaxi Promotions, after it was restarted in March 2002.
Asked why he agreed to pay for mobile phone calls made by someone he did not know that well and have the invoice sent to his son’s home, Mr Snowling told the EFP: “It is a smallholding I own. I have a mortgage with the Halifax and a credit card so I paid it on that. The invoice I paid was for mobile telephone calls made by him from America. He told me to send an email, ‘Can you pick up the telephone bill because I’m still struggling’ and I paid for it. I’m a fool to myself.”
Mr Snowling said it was when he discovered that the assets of Ross Hemsworth Productions were being transferred to Galaxi towards the end of 2002 that he asked for his money and camera equipment back. When his requests fell on deaf ears he instigated legal proceedings and Mr Hemsworth began threatening him. In an email sent to Mr Snowling on December 12, 2003, he was informed that the cameras he had invested had been used in the making of pornographic films. “If the press release is distributed, it could cause considerable to all parties involved in the business, yourself included.” He then advises Mr Snowling to “drop the case immediately”. The finally, in a chilling anonymous email the following month, the councillor was warned that his “constant harassment of Mr Hemsworth is going to get you get you a hospital bed”.
When contacted, Mr Hemsworth maintained that Mr Snowling had invested in Galaxi and that he had only operated as a sole trader for 9 weeks. He had given the camera to him at the end of the US trip after he had admired it, saying “Keep it, it’s yours – treat it as my gift”. He had made it clear to Mr Snowling in a letter that his money had been “donated to the company” and were not repayable whatever the outcome of the business. Mr Snowling never contested this at the time, he said. The court case would leave him personally bankrupt.
“It was an investment,” he said. “The fax he received clearly shows we were asking for an investment with the company and there was no talk of a loan. I classed him as a friend.”