Magician accused of doing 'disappearing act' with customers' cash

Ipswich magician and entertainer Robbie James celebrating his success Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Magician and entertainer Robbie James has been accused of failing to return customers deposits. He is pictured here after being crowned East of England's best entertainer earlier this year. - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

An award-winning Suffolk magician has allegedly vanished in a puff of smoke with several customers deposits.

Robbie James, who was recently crowned the UK's best entertainer, has been accused of failing to show up to booked events and refusing to return customers deposit.

Mr James, who denies these allegations, was named as the UK's best entertainer following a public vote last year – having already won the title of the best entertainer in the East of England earlier in 2020.

Among those who want their deposit returned are Dawn Cooper-Mayhew and Duane Mayhew. 

They booked Mr James to perform at their daughter Eva’s eighth birthday party on October 11.

The couple paid a £100 deposit to Mr James on August 14, he then confirmed that he had received the money over Facebook. 

When the Rule of Six was imposed in September the couple tried to reschedule the party for a future time when coronavirus restrictions were not in place.

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But the magician – whose real name is Evan Boothby – stopped responding to their messages.

“I’ve tried various ways of communicating with him to try and give him a chance and he’s just ignoring us,” Mrs Cooper-Mayhew said.

“I feel a bit devastated about it all really. That’s not how you treat people.

“It’s not fair at anytime – but especially not during lockdown when money is so tight.”

Robbie with his rabbit Domino, who appears in some of his acts

Robbie with his rabbit Domino, who appears in some of his acts - Credit: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Christine Eaglestone booked the magician for a street party on Monday August 31 and was also charged £100 as a deposit.

Mrs Eaglestone received a message from Mr James several days before the planned party saying he still planned to come along but when the day came he never showed up.

“I had no reason to feel that he wouldn’t turn up,” she said.

“The way I look at it he’s a good magician because he’s done a disappearing act."

Since August Mrs Eaglestone has repeatedly tried to contact Mr James to get her money back.

In September Mr James told this newspaper he had not been booked for an event in August.

Then in November, Mrs Eaglestone said Mr James agreed to pay back her £100 in two instalments of £50.

Mr James is also accused of failing to attend a business group's Christmas party over Zoom — for which he had been paid in full.

Kamlesh Samji, a non-practising solicitor based in Leicestershire, paid £200 for the magic act to perform over video call.

Mr Samji said: "We arranged it and I paid him straight up.

"We collected the money from, like, 20 members with a view to booking him. 

"Then it comes to the Friday and we're all logged in with our Zoom link waiting.

"Initially he was saying: 'I'm having trouble with my laptop. My mates gonna drop another one off.'

"So we waited and waited and he just didn't materialise."

Mr Samji said Mr James later apologised and promised a full refund and a free event as well. Messages between the parties seen by this newspaper confirm this.

But Mr Samji said that neither the refund, nor the free show, ever happened and Mr James stopped responding to his messages.

Vikki Walker, who runs a business putting on children's parties, made similar allegations against Robbie James. 

She said she had booked him to perform at several parties.

When Covid-19 forced the postponement of those parties she tried to arrange to move the dates or to get a refund on the understanding that she would book him again when circumstances allowed.

At first, Mr James did not respond to her messages. 

However when she messaged him on WhatsApp he replied. The pair agreed a payment plan to return the deposit, with the first payment due on October 21.

But Ms Walker said: "Absolutely nothing. So three days later I sent him a message saying: 'Just a reminder, your date has come and gone'."

In a message, Mr James said the payment date had "slipped his mind" but when revised payment dates were set these were also missed. 

Mr James described the accusations as "rumours" and said that the people making them had been "put up to this".

He said: "The only cases where a deposit is not returned is if the show is cancelled by the client. 

"This is why we take deposits. 

"Any monies that have been taken as a deposit for a booking that has not gone ahead because of fault to myself has always been refunded to the customer and always will do."

Mr James did not respond when this newspaper attempted to contact him to clarify some of his comments.

A spokesman for Suffolk Trading Standards confirmed they had received a complaint about Mr James, but said it was a civil matter and was therefore not followed up.