In the Media

Serial con artist jailed after enjoying one last free lunch

PUBLISHED June 13, 2012

Christopher Travis, 52, had only been out of jail for three days when he went into celebrity chef Michael Caines' Exeter restaurant and ordered a three course meal with wine.

He became abusive to staff when his card payment for the £51.52 bill - which included a tip - was rejected.

When the police were called he calmed down and told them: "I just wanted a good meal before I went back to jail."

Travis has 86 previous convictions, many for eating meals in restaurants and pubs and not paying. He was banned by an ASBO from entering any restaurant or pub two years ago but has breached the order 13 times.

He is so notorious that his exploits feature in an insurance company's advertisements for their cover against bilking.

Travis has moved around Britain repeating the same trick against more than a dozen restaurants.

Travis, from Exeter, Devon, admitted fraud and his 13th breach of the ASBO proved unlcuky for him as he was jailed for 16 months by Recorder Andrew Maitland at Exeter Crown Court.

He told Travis:"You consumed a meal to the value of £51.52, knowing all along you had no funds to pay and being rude to the staff at the end of it.

"Entering that restaurant was a breach of your ASBO. There is a depressing repetition of offences and a depressing repetition of you being given chance after chance in the past.

"Nothing justifies going into a smart restaurant and ordering a three course meal and a bottle of wine when you cannot pay.

"You said you wanted to have a good meal before you went back into custody.

"The order was made in June 2010 and this is the 13th breach. It is a very simple condition not to enter licensed restaurants or pubs.

"You have totally ignored that, you have ignored it flagrantly, deliberately and repeatedly."

Mr David Bowen, prosecuting, said Travis went into the Abode Restaurant at the Royal Clarence Hotel and ordered a three course meal with wine.

He said: "When he came to pay his card was rejected due to insufficient funds in his account and it is clear he discomfited the young waitress with his questioning and disturbed fellow diners.

"This did not amount to harassment but he made inappropriate comments about the waitress's age and raised his voice, although nobody indicated they were alarmed.

"When police arrived he made a frank admission of his guilt."

Miss Sarah Hornblower, defending, said Travis wants to return to look after his 79-year-old mother in Oxford and is also interested in starting an animal welfare course at Lincoln University.

She accepted that Travis had gone into the Abode restaurant and said: "He doesn't choose bottom end of the scale. He knows full well he cannot pay, that is why he accepts it fully when the police arrive."