Express & Star

How a Black Country MP tipped to be Prime Minister faked his own death and disappeared - Part 2: Family business

The Express & Star tells the full story of a Black Country MP who faked his death and disappeared. In Part 2, we learn more about John Stonehouse's rock family and business relationships.

John Stonehouse’ secretary and later wife Sheila Buckley. Photograph taken in 1985.

There had been no place for Stonehouse in Wilson’s new government, with the spying allegations still hanging around the one-time golden boy like a bad smell. At the age of 49, the man who only a few years earlier was being tipped for Downing Street, was now facing up to the fact that his political career was drawing to a close.

Attempts to keep his various business interests afloat were also becoming increasingly futile, as he shuffled money from one company to another in an attempt to cover up the losses.

Stonehouse’s great-nephew Julian Hayes recalls staying at the MP’s Hampshire farmhouse as a child, and being bowled over by the glamorous lifestyle he enjoyed.

In his book Stonehouse: Cabinet Minister, Fraudster, Spy, Hayes describes staying in the bedroom of the politician’s nine-year-old son Matthew, who was away at boarding school.

“I felt I’d landed in paradise,” he says. “It seemed to contain every toy imaginable, from a Dinky Toys replica of James Bond’s Aston Martin, complete with ejector seat, to masses of beautiful painted Wild West figures.

“As a child at the time, I wasn’t to know that Stonehouse always insisted on the best of everything — including good private schools for all three of his children.”

This was in 1969, and according to Hayes, Stonehouse was already concerned about how he would maintain his lavish lifestyle if Labour lost the impending General Election.

“Life in Opposition would be financially tough, he told my father,” says Hayes. “It was time to make some serious money, and he felt his talents lay in promoting British exports.

“With that in mind, he asked my father to set up three companies for him, bought off the shelf for £100 each.”