It is reported to have been an embarrassing situation for the Prince of Wales and his police protection officers. As he made his way along the receiving line at a charity royal premiere, he found himself shaking the hand of a man neither he, nor the organisers, knew. The man, Alex King, had just conned the heir to the throne and won a £100,000 bet into the bargain.
Mr. King was later to celebrate the success of the prank with the man who challenged him, Lord Edward Ormus Sharrington Davenport. Davenport is the British man who regularly boasts all around London that he stole the former Sierra Leone High Commission from Sierra Leoneans
However self-styled Lord Davenport is not really a Lord and the prank may have been the latest attempt by Mr Davenport to promote his unorthodox business interests which include paying only £50,000 for the Sierra Leone High Commission Building now valued at a cool 13 million pounds sterling.
Professional party-thrower Eddie, as Davenport is known to friends, is understood to have bought his title and, on occasion, drives a rented Bentley to impress potential clients. His imposing central London home, which he also hires out for parties, was the subject of a long legal battle with the Government of Sierra Leone.
He has also been jailed for tax evasion – later reduced to a suspended sentence – and has been connected with a number of failed property businesses.
Mr. Davenport’s first brush with notoriety came as the organiser of teenage parties in the 1980s called "Gatecrasher Balls".
Young party-goers regularly appeared in newspapers, drunk and half-dressed, under such headlines as: "Would you let your daughter go to a ball like this?"
And his partying ways have not stopped – he now uses the house to host high-class sex parties.
Mr. King and Mr Davenport share the house in Portland Place with Davenport’s minder and personal trainer, Jan, and any number of film crews using it as a period set. Recently it was the BBC. Speaking from his bedroom after the hoax, Mr King, 30, said the bet was real and the money had been paid.
‘’Eddie had got a ticket to take his girlfriend to the premiere and I was upset he hadn’t got me one so I said, ‘It doesn’t matter, I’ll see you there anyway and not only that, I’ll be in the Royal line-up.’ He said, ‘You’re off your rocker,’ and I was being a bit cocky so I said, ‘Bet you £100,000.’ Once I had managed to shake his hand, I knew the bet was on. He’s a man of his word and he does all his business on a handshake."
Others have been less charitable about Mr Davenport’s business dealings. One investment vehicle, Capricorn Group Holdings, went into liquidation owing £4 million after trying to treble at least one tenant’s rent.
Another, Southern Cross Group, met a similar fate, with one tenant telling a BBC investigation: "I became quite concerned at why a company that was so big and so powerful couldn’t pay a crummy little £50 gas bill." And, by his own admission, Mr Davenport states that he is known as the man who "stole" the embassy of Sierra Leone in 1999, paying £50,000 for the freehold of the central London Georgian house, which is now worth an estimated £13 million.
It is that house which forms the backdrop for parties for Mick Jagger and Jessica Rosthchild, attended by the likes of Kate Moss and Hugh Grant. Mr King told an elaborate story about how he vaulted the barriers just as Stephen Fry was walking past, strolled up the red carpet and greeted Prince Charles with a cheeky comment about how the heir to the throne should be the next James Bond.
The Prince’s Trust said after the incident that they had believed Mr King was a "bona fide ticket holder" but invited him to donate some of the alleged £100,000 to the trust. It was, after all, the total they were hoping to raise.
Mr King responded by saying that he was "thinking about it."
Meanwhile, King was arrested shortly after the incidence by police officers who allegedly found 55 indecent images on his laptop. Cops also say they found two videos called Two Cute Little Boys Having Fun and Pre-Teen Girl Kid. King however insisted he was innocent, adding: "Everything should be fine." A Scotland Yard source said he was arrested after he tried to sell his laptop.
King, who still lives in a ‘commune’ at the former Sierra Leone building, is expected to have started facing trial for the child pornography at Snaresbrook Crown Court in East London.