All of us in some way, aspire to be heroes, especially when we’re young. We want to be superheroes, wizards, princesses, star fighters, sportsmen, and soldiers. Sadly though, as we get older, we realize the intangibility of some of those dreams, and come to terms with the heroic roles we can take in reality.
Tom had always wanted the same thing, to be a member of Britain’s respected SAS regiment and to make a difference in the world. When he came of age, he did just that, he even wrote a novel about his exploits. But his life, fantastic though it became, would take some rather dark twists going forward…
Tom Carew was a modern-day adventurer. A member of Britain’s secretive and elite Special Air Service, or SAS as it’s commonly known. Tom decided to turn his military experience into a book. “Jihad!” as it was titled, was a rich retelling of Tom’s lifetime of adventure and it sold 50,000 copies.
Lifetime of Adventure
In his tenure with the SAS, Tom had served in a number of exotic places like the Hindu Kush and Afghanistan. He even helped train the mujahideen to fight the Soviets during their invasion in the late 1970s. Many of the first-hand accounts in his book were thrilling recounts of his time escaping from and gunning down angry Soviet soldiers…
In the wake of the tragic September 11th attacks on the Twin Towers in New York City, Tom Carew gave dozens of media interviews. He had fought the Afghanis and indeed the Taliban before and believed he could provide insight and expertise on how they would fight. His experience and erudition on the subject made him seem very knowledgable indeed.
He was even on his way to writing a follow-up book about how Great Britain secretly armed Croats and Muslims in the former Yugoslavia. He had some secret information on a CIA arms dealer who he suspected was involved in the hijacking of the Italian cruise liner ‘Achille Lauro’ in 1985. But as his claims grew more grandiose, they also grew more conspiratorial…
Holes in the Story
Time moved on and Tom Carew would tell anyone who would listen about his 20 years of experience with the SAS. Soon though, the facts behind Carew’s many adventures began to unravel. Holes began to appear in his story and as such his expertise began to come into question, as did his actual tenure with the SAS.
A group of mercenaries came forward stating that Tom Carew had duped them into travelling to Croatia in order to take part in a secret “black op”. The mission was supposed to be a fairly lucrative enterprise but turned out to be nothing of the sort. The mercenaries were in the country for six weeks before they realized there was no such operation. Carew had been lying and it begged the question, what else was he lying about?
Soon, the SAS, who were understandably aggrieved by his rapidly unravelling lies about them, decided to expose Tom Carew as the charlatan he was. Tom Carew had never actually served with the SAS, indeed he’d failed out of their entrance test twice. As if that wasn’t enough, it turned out that the name Tom Carew was actually a pen name.
Yes, after selling 50,000 copies of his book, Tom Carew was exposed as Philip Sessarego, an unabashed fantasist fixated with the SAS who fabricated his entire novel and every factor of his life story in an attempt to live vicariously through other people. Phil’s real story was anything but adventurous…
In reality, Philip Sessarego had only spent two years with the Royal Artillery, having twice failed the SAS’s stringent entrance test. He did spend some time in Afghanistan, but it was unlikely that his proud accounts of bravery at war with the Soviets were little more than outlandish embellishments from a man who desperately wanted to be a hero.
Move to Belgium
Once he was revealed to be a charlatan in November 2001, Sessarego decided to leave the UK and move to Belgium, where he lived under the assumed name Philip Stephenson. It wasn’t just that he had been humiliated though, he was concerned that perhaps his falsities had inadvertently revealed some of the SAS’ secrets and that they might be after him…
Sessarego believed that the SAS were out to get him. His paranoia and conspiracy theories had apparently gotten the better of him. He remained in secret for years, living in Belgium and barely contacting his wife and daughter. Then one day, in January of 2009, his lifetime of lies took one strange, final twist.
Where’s the Rent?
Sessarego’s landlord was ticked off. His mysterious, foreign tenant had been late with the rent again. Not only that, but he hadn’t heard from him for a while. Usually when he was late he at least called to let him know things were tight and he’d need a few more days. Fed up, he came banging at Sassarego’s door, but received no answer…
The landlord wandered around the house but could find no sign of Sessarego anywhere. It was only when he made his way to the garage and found his tenant’s partially decomposed body, that he learned the truth. The 55-year-old charlatan had died cold and alone in a foreign country.
Sessarego had been found lying with his few belongings, a small cooker and a bed in the garage. The reclusive author had apparently taken to living in the garage to avoid his many “enemies”. He had succumbed to inadvertent carbon monoxide poisoning. But had all this been for nothing, or had he actually been in danger?
One of Sessarego’s neighbors came out afterwards saying, “He was hiding from someone, I think. But he also seemed to be living in a kind of parallel world, so maybe he thought he had to hide.” The police found documents in his home that indicated that it was Sessarego but still had to test the found there DNA to be sure.
Eventually, Belgian police confirmed that the body had been identified as Sessarego. Despite the obvious accidental nature of his demise, they didn’t want to leave out the possibility that Sessarego’s lies might have made him the target of potential murder. Yet, who even knew that he had moved to Belgium besides his family? Speaking of Philip Sessarego’s family…
His daughter Claire, who Sessarego had abandoned as a child, has come out and said, rather harshly: “Basically, if I’m going to be blunt about it, I think he is a twat. He never served in the SAS . He’s just a fantasist who’s trying to make money on the back of other people’s reputations…I wouldn’t care if somebody killed him because he’s brought it all on himself.”
Don’t Believe It
Still, there are those back in England who don’t exactly believe that the remains are those of Philip Sessarego. “I wouldn’t believe it. It’s not the first time he has been dead. He was supposed to have been found decomposed in Bosnia in the early 90s. And there were rumours of his demise in South Africa. Anything to do with this guy I would take with a pinch of salt,” said one person.
Scores to Settle
Even today, many years later, police still believe it is possible that Sessarego was murdered. His daughter has claimed that her father “made enemies easily,” so even if he wasn’t killed in some secret SAS revenge scheme, he may have simply run afoul of someone and mouthed off.
His daughter added: “Dad was obsessed with wanting to be in the regiment. He took the SAS selection test a couple of times but failed, and that really crushed him. I think he decided if he couldn’t be the real thing, he would pretend.” It’s hard to blame him for this, for who among us hasn’t wanted to be more than they were?