Lord Patten’s son-in-law is jailed for five years after acting as getaway driver in terrifying Indian restaurant shooting
- Elton Charles, 51, was recruited by his half-brother Nathaniel St Aimie in the plot
- CCTV showed a gunman open fire in a curry house in Greenford, west London
Lord Patten’s son-in-law has been jailed for five years for acting as a getaway driver in a terrifying shooting at an Indian restaurant.
Elton Charles, 51, who is married to the Conservatives peer and former Hong Kong governor’s daughter, Laura, was recruited by his half-brother Nathaniel St Aimie as part of a plot to terrorise bosses at the PBK restaurant in Greenford, west London.
Charles took part in the mafia-style plot on September 6 last year with co-conspirators Nicholas Grant, 46, and Lee Morgan, 42, both of whom were also jailed for five years at Kingston Crown Court.
Morgan, 42, of Leybourne, Kent, supplied the weapon that was discharged in the restaurant. A shot-gun blast shattered the window and glass sprayed the dining room as diners — including children — screamed in fear as the gunman sprinted back to his van.
CCTV footage played out to the court showed a hooded gunman exiting the white Volkswagen getaway van, bring driven by Charles, and heading towards the business before opening fire at around 9.30pm.
The incident lasted mere minutes, but it was long enough to terrorise customers and turn Laura Patten’s life upside down.
Charles, Nicholas Grant, 46, and Lee Morgan, 42, were convicted of conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence at Kingston Crown Court and were each jailed for five years.
Organiser of the shooting, St Aimie, 48, from Tooting southwest London, who describes himself as a ‘courier’.
He admitted the same charge and was given six years and three months in prison.
Although no diners were injured, Judge Jonathan Davies was ‘moved’ after watching parents protect their children from the hail of bullets.
The trio were convicted last month following a six-week trial after the jury had deliberated for seven hours.
Members of the defendants’ families in the public gallery gasped as the guilty verdicts were returned and Lord Patten’s daughter Laura held her head in her hands and wept.
During the sentencing, the judge said: ‘You all played an important part in what happened and Mr St Aimie, I am satisfied, and you haven’t denied it, you were the organiser of the shooting and played a leading role.
‘Why you were involved with Mr St Aimie and who had recruited you to the conspiracy or asked you to attack the restaurant has never been identified.’
Directing his comments towards Charles, the judge said: ‘I reject [the claim that your involvement was] simply a last-minute decision.
‘This was an offence with significant planning. I have taken into account your personal mitigation.
‘I note, for example, you have a successful business and a happy family life, which I read ‘is now being ripped apart due to unfortunate circumstances’.
‘Well, you will have time to think about how that unfortunate circumstance comes about. It didn’t so much happen to you, you chose it.’
He added: ‘That’s the tragedy, isn’t it? I’m sure your children do need you but the reality is your conduct means the court has no choice but to pass a custodial sentence.’
The middle daughter of Hong Kong’s last governor Chris Patten and his former barrister wife Lavender, Laura Patten sprang to fame in the summer of 1992 when she arrived in the former British colony clad in a miniskirt and bustier top, sparking a media frenzy. Together, she and her younger sister Alice — now 43 and an actress, and 50-year-old documentary maker sister Kate — were nicknamed ‘The Three Graces’ by starstruck local press.
Laura was determined to maintain a low profile, but when, ten years later, she and Charles announced their nuptials it was amid a flurry of newspaper headlines dwelling on the apparent incongruity of the match.
Yet save for an early blip, when the couple separated for several weeks around seven months after their 2002 wedding, the couple have more than defied the naysayers.
Their marriage has lasted 21 years, they are raising three children — Elodie, 17, Willow 15 and 12-year-old Noah — and latterly appear to have settled into a life that can only be described as resolutely and comfortably middle-class.
Laura is a Pilates instructor, and Elton works in construction management, and like so many other parents, the lion’s share of family activity is centred on ferrying their children to and from football fixtures and other commitments.
Charles’s conviction throws a bomb into the middle of all this —although according to a friend of the family who the Mail spoke to in recent days, it will make no difference at all to Laura’s ongoing devotion to a man to whom she first gave her heart as a teenager.
‘She’s loved him for 30 years,’ the friend said. ‘She won’t stop whatever happens.’
Theirs has certainly been a longstanding love story: the pair met in the spring of 1992 when Laura was only 17 and Charles 20.
It was a collision of two very different worlds. Charles was raised in North-West London alongside six half siblings — among them Nathaniel — by his West Indian mother Elizabeth.
His father Roger was an immigrant from Guadeloupe who spray-painted cars to provide for his family, but did not remain on the scene for long.
‘I’m more like his dad than his friend,’ Charles explained of his relationship with Nathaniel, at 44 six years his junior, while giving evidence earlier this month. ‘You know, Dad wasn’t around, so I’m the one who looks after the family for support.’
After finishing school at 16, Charles got a job as a painter and decorator, before setting up his own business as a florist after meeting his future wife.
Her background could not be more of a contrast. As the daughter of a longstanding MP once touted as a future leader of the Conservative party, Laura was raised alongside her sisters Kate and Alice, in a comfortable family home in the affluent riverside suburb of Barnes.
Behind the veneer of privilege, however, Laura had the makings of someone who forges her own path. Aged just 11 she refused to attend the exclusive Godolphin and Latymer school where her sisters were educated to attend a London comprehensive, and when her father, to whom friends say she is devoted, was defeated as MP in his Bath constituency in 1992, she was so furious that he had not been allowed to give a farewell speech that she took it upon herself to galvanise his team to sing ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow’ in front of the Press as a show of defiance.
‘Laura has always had this determined streak and once she has set her mind on something she won’t be persuaded,’ the family friend explains. Months later, however, when her father was appointed Governor of Hong Kong, Laura was reluctant to up sticks from her life in London, having by now met Charles at a party.
‘Really I hadn’t wanted to go in the first place,’ she later recalled.
She stayed in the colony just six weeks — shorter than her parents had expected, but enough time to make her a media sensation. Her arrival alongside younger sister Alice Kate was travelling and working in South America, was greeted by near hysteria, and within days the South China Morning Post was running a feature called ‘How to achieve the Laura look’.
Just over a month later, she returned to London to stay with family friends and, after dropping out of A-levels, enrolled on a food and wine course at Prue Leith’s School Of Food And Wine before moving into magazine journalism, working her way through a series of high-profile glossy magazines before being given the role of beauty editor at Tatler.
Known as hard-working and unpretentious, she notably never attempted to exploit her family credentials and has remained determinedly under the radar ever since her brush with fame.
‘I don’t think they ever wanted to be in the limelight, these decisions are not necessarily there to be made,’ Lavender, who went on to become a divorce counsellor, said of her daughters in 2007.
‘It’s a question of how one stays out of the limelight, rather than wanting to be in.’
Those instincts were shared by Charles: after he proposed in 2021, the newly betrothed eschewed a society wedding to marry at a quiet ceremony in Greece attended by a few close family and friends, followed by a reception in the UK at Barnes Wetlands Centre. Chris and Lavender said they were ‘delighted’ for their daughter, calling Elton ‘wonderful’.
The young couple settled in a flat in Acton, although it later emerged that they had separated for a few months shortly after their wedding, with Laura returning to the family home in Barnes. ‘It was an awful time,’ the friend said. ‘They got married and then several months later one of them had a panic attack. Eventually they realised they needed to be together.’
Their eldest daughter Elodie was born towards the end of 2005 and the following year, in a rare interview, Laura described themselves as ‘very, very happy’.
‘I am a very private person, and so is Elton,’ she said in 2006. ‘We have been together for ages and he’s wonderful. We normally spend our time down the pub and avoid society events like the plague.’
Their relationship certainly seems to have gone from strength to strength since. Following their marriage, Charles became the building manager for the Groucho Club in Soho before enrolling at Westminster University to study construction management, setting up his own maintenance company six years ago.
‘They are a lovely family,’ one of their neighbours told the Mail this week. ‘They do a lot with the children.’
They are also doing well financially: the now grey-haired and bearded Charles revealed in court that their collective monthly income was around £10,000. ‘I have been living a great life, a family life,’ he said.
Which brings us back to the incident at Greenford’s PBK Punjabi restaurant, which jurors at Kingston Crown Court was told was intended to ‘instil fear’ in the restaurant’s owners.
Charles consistently denied being involved in either his brother’s business or the incident: but his phone was tracked from his North-West London home to the restaurant, and ANPR cameras captured his van on the same road. He repeatedly insisted in the witness box that he had merely travelled to meet his brother to get some cannabis from him.
‘Occasionally I would like to smoke, you know, after work I would like to settle, chill, so I would smoke some cannabis,’ he told jurors. My brother (St Aimie) would get some for me if he could. I wouldn’t go out and buy because it wasn’t a habit. My wife doesn’t like me smoking. I don’t smoke in the house and the kids don’t know I smoke. I’m not a smoker every day, I can go without smoking for two months. It was once in a while.’
He told the court he had received a call on his mobile phone from one of his brother’s many ‘burner’ phones, and headed to Greenford where, after driving in convoy with St Aimie’s van behind him close to the scene of the shooting his brother had asked him to ‘hang about’.
‘I said I was just going to light a spliff, so I’ll hang about. I was going to build a spliff anyway.’ He had ‘no idea’ about the shooting, he added. Phone records showed St Aimie and Charles spoke just over 20 seconds before the shooting. Charles said: ‘He phoned me, yes. Why does that mean I know anything about the shooting?
He then received a call from St Amie around 15 minutes after the shooting — he said he ‘couldn’t remember’ what they talked about.
As we have seen, Charles’ explanation was not accepted by the jury, and he is now awaiting sentencing.
It will be a devastating blow for Laura, who attended her husband’s initial hearing with eldest daughter Elodie, and who, as we have seen, is expected to stand by a man she has loved determinedly for 30 years.
Her sisters, to whom she remains close, are understood to support her decision, as do her parents.
Charles’s mother refused to comment to the Mail when approached at her own two-bed detached home around a mile from that of her son and daughter-in-law. ‘I don’t know anything about it, I’m not talking to any reporters,’ she says.
Whatever the next few months bring, it seems certain they will not mark the end for this unusual love story. ‘Laura is a stalwart person, and then some,’ the family friend said. ‘She is surrounded by love, and they will get through this.’