FEARS were mounting last night for the welfare of a Chester man who told his solicitor he intended to commit suicide instead of attending a court hearing.
Stephen Brownson was due to appear at Mold Crown Court yesterday morning to be sentenced for deception, following the collapse of a trip to see boxer Lennox Lewis claim his world heavyweight crown in Las Vegas in 1999.
But Judge Derek Halbert was told by Brownson's barrister, Neil Flewitt, that he had contacted his solicitors, had indicated he was not attending, and that he was going to a hotel to commit suicide.
Police were immediately ordered to Brownson's home in Fraser Court, in Handbridge, but there was no trace of him. Officers conducted house-to-house inquiries to find out when neighbours had last seen him.
A Cheshire police spokesman said last night: " Inquiries are being made to trace Mr Brownson but so far they have not been successful. There are concerns for Mr Brownson's well-being."
Last week, the 48-year-old was sacked from his job as a lecturer at West Cheshire College in Chester.
A college spokeswoman said Stephen Brownson's employment as a lecturer in finance and accounting had been terminated, adding: "The termination is specifically in relation to his credibility to continue as a lecturer due to the fact he was convicted of 10 charges of deception."
Brownson admitted the charges at an earlier hearing after his company, Sportswide Services, left more than 130 fans stranded when their three-day package tours to Las Vegas, including fight tickets, failed to materialise.
Knutsford Crown Court was told that about £180,000, including £120,000 of dishonoured cheques issued to the disgruntled fans by his company, based in Hunter's Walk, was involved.
Fans from across the country claimed they had paid for the inclusive package which included flight tickets, accommodation in a three-star hotel, and seats for the fight.
But, while Brownson made it to ringside, flight and fight tickets failed to turn up and their plane left without them.
Sportswide then sent out post-dated cheques to the disgruntled customers for the outstanding amount.
An explanation for the fiasco in a covering letter with the cheques claimed the firm was having difficulties with its operating licence.
But trading standards officials at Cheshire County Council were deluged with phone calls claiming that the cheques had not been honoured.
Brownson was finally arrested following a joint investigation by Cheshire CID and county trading standards officers.