The many faces of Queensland conman Peter Clarence Foster.
The many faces of Queensland conman Peter Clarence Foster.

Conman, fugitive, playboy says life of crime is over

HE'S out of jail. He's a free man. Again.

But for Queensland conman Peter Clarence Foster, 55, there is an eerie sense of deja vu, this syndrome of capture and release, that has plagued him for most of his adult life.

This time around, however, has a new, reborn Foster emerged from incarceration, perhaps for the last time?

Less than two weeks out of a NSW prison, having been charged with fraud last year, Foster spoke exclusively to News Queensland about how he planned to turn his life around and concentrate on giving, rather than taking.

The many faces of Queensland conman Peter Clarence Foster.
The many faces of Queensland conman Peter Clarence Foster.

Speaking at an undisclosed location in the northern suburbs of the Gold Coast, Foster, dressed in a patterned Hawaiian shirt, white slacks and beige loafers, said his priorities were now caring for his ailing mother, Louise Poletti, 87, and "doing the right thing" by society.

He said his recent prison stretch had been his worst "by far", having been jailed over the years in the UK, the US, Fiji and of course Australia.

"What jail taught me this time is how important my family is to me, and how unimportant I am to everybody else," he said.

Foster was arrested on the Gold Coast in February last year on fraud charges and was extradited to NSW, where he spent 18 months behind bars, before he was granted bail in Sydney's Central Local Court on Monday, August 6.

He was not deemed a flight risk and returned to his family on the Gold Coast.

He last popped up in Queensland in May when he was a witness at the Brisbane committal hearing of Gold Coast businessman John Chardon, accused of murdering his wife Novy in February 2013.

Peter Foster in Fiji, 2013. Picture: Peter Foster
Peter Foster in Fiji, 2013. Picture: Peter Foster

 

The court was told Foster had shared a cell with Chardon in 2015 - Foster was then serving jail time over a weight-loss scheme - and had acted as a police informant.

Chardon had allegedly admitted to Foster he had shot and killed his wife over money, Foster said.

Chardon pleaded not guilty to murdering his wife and has been committed to stand trial.

Foster said his decision to involve himself in the Chardon matter was because he wanted to be a responsible citizen.

He said he acted on the understanding his role would be anonymous. That he would be "Prisoner X". But his identity was leaked to the media.

He said he stuck by his decision to testify.

Image grabs from ACA of the Peter Foster arrest.
Image grabs from ACA of the Peter Foster arrest.

"And maybe, again, this is all about trying to prove to myself that I can do the right thing … I'm just trying to do the right thing," he said this week.

Before the committal hearing, however, Foster was warned by an inmate in NSW not to give evidence in the case and was bashed.

"There had been an article in a Sydney newspaper that I was giving evidence … the paper referred to me as a jailhouse snitch or a supergrass," Foster said.

"Inmates think there's some unwritten rule that you don't give blokes up. There had been taunts all weekend over it. Through the window prisoners were saying, 'Foster, we're going to kill you, we're going to stab you, you're a dog'."

He was approached by six men in the prison library of the Kariong Correctional Centre in Gosford, north of Sydney, and was "smashed in the face" by one of them. Foster was taken to hospital for treatment.

"The paper can call me a jailhouse snitch and get me bashed and beaten and put my life in danger, but that still doesn't take away from the fact that I did what I believed was the right thing to do," Foster said. "To me, it was important, though it wasn't easy."

Peter Foster on the Gold Coast with his mother, who has been diagnosed with aggressive dementia.
Peter Foster on the Gold Coast with his mother, who has been diagnosed with aggressive dementia.

Another aspect to his quest for atonement was his mother, who has been diagnosed with aggressive dementia.

He said one of his greatest fears in jail was that his mother would die before he got out.

"It was awful," he said.

"There was one occasion when an ambulance was called for her, it was a Friday afternoon, and I'm in jail, in limbo with limited communications. You fear the worst."

Louise said she felt "1000 times worse" when her son was in jail.

"One and a half years seemed like about 20 years," Louise said. "… you knew about these people being bashed in jail and that was what I was afraid of more than anything. I kept thinking of that drug dealer Carl Williams."

Foster said he was an unapologetic "mummy's boy" and that his mother had been his greatest ally in his colourful and often tumultuous life.

That life had gone from boxing promotion as a teenager to a well-publicised relationship with British celebrity and tabloid "page three girl" Samantha Fox in the 1980s, to an entanglement with former British prime minister Tony Blair's wife Cherie, to involving himself in Fijian politics to periods on the run from the law.

"During my times in incarceration, whether it was in England, or Fiji, or America, or Brisbane, Mum came and visited me every single week in jail, without fail," he reflected. "The hardest part of the last 18 months was that I didn't have one visit.

"That was the worst part, not being able to see Mum.

"But the one woman who has shown undivided loyalty, who has fought to the death for me, the one woman who has been the most solid rock in my life, is Mum."

Foster said he wasn't expecting any sympathy.

"I don't want sympathy. I don't expect it," he said.

"It's the last thing in the world I want. As I've said previously, I am a flawed man, but I'm not a bad man.

"It sounds too self-serving to defend myself. There are always going to be better and worse people than me.

"I have never, ever intentionally set out to hurt anyone financially, physically, emotionally, it's just not … but, it is what it is.

"There shouldn't be sympathy towards me.

"But someone smarter than me once said, the true soul of a society is measured by its ability to treat the unattractive in the community with the same sense of decency and fair play as the attractive.

"That's all I'm asking for."

Foster added: "My critics will be pleased to know I am the end of the Foster line.

"There were four brothers, my dad and his brothers. And I'm the only son born.

"Unless I do a Charlie Chaplin and giddy-up late in life, that's the end of the Fosters."



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