The secret past of a serial liar who has been dramatically freed from drowning his wife in a swimming pool can be revealed today.
It’s a trail of devastation across two continents, a multi-million pound jail sentence – and the mysterious death of a previous wife along with his four-year-old daughter.
He can now be exposed as Donald Somers, who stole £ 12 million from a German bank as a commercial banker in 2000.
A judge in his native New Zealand later labeled him ‘someone who is alive’ [his] fraudulent and criminal acts ”.
The man can now be exposed as Donald Somers, who, as a commercial banker, stole £ 12 million from a German bank in 2000
The Daily Mail’s revelations raise serious questions about why the unfair past of ‘Donald McPherson’ – his most recently adopted name – was not brought before the jury that tried him for the murder of Paula Leeson.
Last week, the 47-year-old – who had set herself up as a property developer but was reportedly actually ‘a man of straw’ – was released from court after the judge stopped the case and ordered the jury to file an innocent verdict.
The decision was received with grief by Miss Leeson’s family, who had merged his deceit and multiple identities since her death.
His trial had overheard how he took out seven life insurance policies – worth about £ 3.5 million in the event of her death – reportedly without telling her.
Despite hating swimming and preferring city trips, in 2017 he booked the couple a holiday chalet with an indoor pool in a remote part of Denmark.
On the last day of the trip, Mr. McPherson frantically called an ambulance to say he had found his wife fully clothed in the pool.
He claimed he made an effort to get the 47-year-old to safety because he hurt his shoulder.
On July 24, 2006, police found the bodies of Miss Kulppi and her four-year-old daughter. Investigators concluded that they were overcome after the 35-year-old deliberately started a fire. But from his cell, Somers insisted they had been murdered, citing “various death threats” – a suspicion supported by Miss Kulppi’s parents in Sweden.
According to prosecutors, he ‘stuffed’ into a steak dinner within hours of her death after transferring more than £ 20,000 from their joint account to cover his debts.
On trial earlier this month, he was charged with murder under his supposed name.
It was a long way from his childhood as a ‘gifted mathematician’ whose family remembers applying for NASA at the age of nine and started investing in stocks as a teenager.
But the Manchester hearing was cut drastically because the Prosecution could not rebut his defense that Miss Leeson had fallen or jumped in the pool – even though the judge said it was “clearly more likely” that he had killed her.
Jurors were told about his birth name, Alexander Lang – but not about his secret life of fraud or the death of his previous wife.
Now the Daily Mail can reveal that when £ 12 million was stolen from Germany’s Commerzbank in 2000, he was suspected of involvement. Together with his then Swedish wife Ira Kulppi, he fled to Australia, where the couple had a daughter, Natalie, and settled in Cairns, Queensland.
But in 2005, the fraud caught up with ‘Somers’ and he was extradited to Germany and sentenced to three years and three months in prison for embezzlement.
After a ‘whirlwind romance’, Mr McPherson and Paula (pictured) bought a home close to her doting parents in Sale and enjoyed a lavish wedding at Peckforton Castle, a stately pile in the rolling Cheshire countryside, in June 2014 – it was described as ‘a great occasion’ on which ‘no expense has been spared’
Neighbors said Miss Kulppi was becoming “a hermit,” more and more afraid to leave the house.
On July 24, 2006, police found the bodies of Miss Kulppi and her four-year-old daughter. Investigators concluded that they were overcome after the 35-year-old deliberately started a fire.
But from his cell, Somers insisted they had been murdered and reported “various death threats” – a suspicion supported by Miss Kulppi’s parents in Sweden.
The German police finally agreed with Australian detectives.
Somers was released to return to New Zealand and admitted to having obtained £ 3,000 worth of electrical goods through fraud.
A court heard he had 27 convictions for dishonesty.
Around 2010, while using the name Donald McPherson and describing himself as a property developer, he met a British builder while on holiday in Egypt.
Back in Manchester – his father’s hometown – he was introduced by the builder to William Leeson’s civil engineering, where he met his daughter Paula, who handled the invoices.
It seems she was ‘in love’ with the mysterious newcomer, who carried stacks of cash in elastic bands. ‘Don’ claimed he was dumped as a baby – but this was one of his many lies.
In reality, his parents are the only close relatives with whom he has remained in touch throughout his life of deceit.
After a ‘whirlwind romance’, Mr McPherson and Paula bought a house close to her doting parents in Sale and enjoyed a lavish wedding at Peckforton Castle, a stately pile in the rolling Cheshire countryside, in June 2014 – it was described as’ a grand affair ‘on which’ no expense has been spared ‘.
Within three years, he had taken out no fewer than seven joint life insurance policies, the lawsuit heard.
Shortly after Miss Leeson’s death, Mr. McPherson reportedly set up an account with an online support group that the jury heard he later referred to as “ like a Tinder for widows. ”
The motive for the alleged murder was “the oldest and simplest in the book,” prosecutor David McLachlan QC told Manchester Crown Court jurors.
Interviewed by detectives, Mr. McPherson suggested that bruises and scrapes on Miss Leeson’s body were caused when she “bumped her head against the edge of the pool” when he tried to pull her out.
He insisted she was aware of the life insurance policies.
The pathologist who conducted the post-mortem examination could not rule out the possibility that she had fallen into the pool and sustained injuries during rescue attempts.
The collapse of the trial was met with furious disbelief by Miss Leeson’s parents, as her 78-year-old father shouted, “Shame on you Don!”
Her brother Neville told the judge, “You’re making a big mistake.”
Outside the courtroom, Miss Leeson’s family labeled him “untouchable.”
The prosecution has never tried to bring forward his conviction for fraud as evidence.
Mark Callaghan, Head of the Crown Prosecution Service’s North West Complex Casework Unit, said: “ We understand the outrage at the termination of this trial, but do not believe introducing an unrelated fraud conviction would have made any difference for the outcome. ‘
Faced with his true past, Mr. McPherson declined to comment last night.
But in a statement after the murder trial, he said: “It was a tragic accident and it deeply saddens me that the events in question should have been seen differently at some point and that I was once suspected of having played a role in Paula’s death. . ‘
An inquest by the Queensland coroner in 2009 concluded that his wife and daughter died of carbon monoxide poisoning after a fire “deliberately lit” by Miss Kulppi.