After more than two years of squirrelling away scraps of paper and collecting interviews, my story on Daniel Clayton is here.
I’ve been fielding plenty of reader questions about my Calgary Herald story, Fanciful Secret Life Ends in Calgary Prison Cell. I will answer some of them here.
Clayton’s self-promotion and quest for publicity is not unlike the case against accused Canadian killer Luka Rocco Magnotta. Eerie similarities abound in how they both invented personas and pursued the limelight.
Q: “How did you find out? Did you get a tip?”
A: The old adage “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” fits perfectly here. In 2009, my sharp colleagues, including @stephmassinon, smelled something fishy after being contacted by Daniel Clayton, offering unsolicited commentary. Now, typically, reporters rely on dial-a-quote sources to comment on news of the day. University professors, lawyers, association spokespeople — anyone with insight germane to the story.
The thing is, we call them — not the other way around.
It was an anonymous email sent Nov. 28, 2009 that didn’t pass the smell test. The heavily detailed, two-page email came from a user called “lindhoutfacts.”
It was, in a word, desperate.
In it, the writer heaped praise upon Clayton, fawning over his career and “exposing facts” about Alberta kidnapping victim Amanda Lindhout, freshly rescued from Somalia.
The email reads:
“(Clayton) collated a full intelligence report that was submitted to Canadian Foreign Affairs in August, 2009, with follow-up reports in September and October… within the report was the current location of Amanda Lindhout, the cell phone number of the group holding her, known safe houses of the group, known associates of the group and information on Amanda’s health.”
In follow up emails, the writer lamented that Clayton had offered his services as a fundraiser: “which thinking about it, would obviously have been a great idea due to the high profile people that Daniel is involved with. He used to be the Bodyguard (sic) for Brad Pitt, Madonna and various other celebrities and in his circle of friends are local influential businessmen such as Brett Wilson, Bernard Florence, Tony Dilawri and Fabio Centini; not to mention their friends too,” he wrote in the email.
In August 2009, news outlets began crediting Clayton as a Calgary “security expert.”
But that wasn’t Clayton’s first time getting his name — and apocryphal yarns — into print.
In September 2007, the Calgary Sun ran two stinkers. Under his name Aaron Robinson (there are four identities by our count), Clayton was breathlessly identified as a British bodyguard to the stars who spied Angelina Jolie in her underwear, shopped in London with Meg Ryan, and “had the backs of everyone from ambassadors to Tinseltown glitterati in places all around the world.”
Clayton goes on to claim: “I’ve been stabbed, I was saved by my body armour when I was shot, blown up three times, I’ve had hypothermia twice, been in a helicopter crash and in Calgary I had West Nile virus.”
It is also the first mention of his claims at being awarded a Purple Heart one month after being injured in Iraq. Fast-forward to his 2012 trial for child pornography charges. Clayton backpeddled on the witness stand, using his testimony to clarify it was a purple ribbon. But in the pages of his self-published book, he said he never filled out the paper work to receive the Purple Heart. (Yes, I’ve read his self-published paperback, Against All Odds. No, I don’t recommend it.)
On July 30, 2010, police announced three child pornography charges against Clayton.
I may have been seen jumping up and down in the newsroom. That was the exact moment we knew we had a bigger story to dig in to. Of course, we had saved the “lindhoutfacts” emails because all good hoarders know they’re going to come in handy someday.
The results are below. Send me your questions and I’ll be happy to answer them!
Fanciful secret life ends in Calgary prison cell
Security consultant serving time for child pornography
By Sherri Zickefoose
June 10, 2012
The way Daniel Clayton tells it, he was born to lead a life of international intrigue. At 15, he forged his mother’s signature to enlist in the British army. The dual British and Canadian citizen rose quickly through the ranks to become a decorated war hero, serving in the elite United Kingdom Special Forces in direct support to the renowned Special Air Service — all by his early 20s. He served in Afghanistan and Borneo, and survived a roadside bomb blast in Iraq while protecting officials when he served the United States Department of Defence. Then, for a change of pace, he became a bodyguard to the stars. Madonna, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are among those he says he protected. Along the way, he found time to earn two university degrees, self-publish his memoirs, run multiple risk advisory, security, concierge and public relations companies, and proposed to his girlfriend. He also dabbled as a one-time record producer, regular media commentator, entrepreneur and philanthropist — Clayton’s resume boasted all of it by the age 28. His self-proclaimed successes came to an abrupt halt after police exposed his secret addiction to child pornography. Clayton was leading a double life — one without his wife and two children, left behind when he disappeared from England in 2005 and arrived in Calgary seeking a new start. With a new name. “It’s all rubbish,” said the woman who married Clayton when he was Aaron Robinson. “I was with him between 2001 and 2004. He never went to university (in England), was never in special forces, never wounded, never got a purple ribbon.” The pair are still legally married. The woman, who remains living in England, says she is seeking compensation from Clayton for abandoning her and their children. She asked not to be named in this story. “He had left us to go to Canada alone to start his new life,” she said. But the secret life he began in Calgary has come to a shocking end. On May 18, a Calgary judge sentenced Clayton, 30, to three years in prison for distributing and possessing child pornography, the likes of which she described as “violent and repulsive.” He maintains his innocence. Daniel James Clayton started life as Aaron Luke Robinson, born Nov. 24, 1981, near Leeds, England. He was 19 when his mother, a Canadian, died there in 2000. A few years later, Clayton left his duties as a lance corporal in the British army. He says he worked for a private security and risk management company in the U.K., called Aegis. The company confirmed Clayton was a self-employed contractor for one year in 2004, but was never awarded a purple ribbon, according to sources. Clayton legally changed his name from Robinson and wrote about his tales of war, which he chronicled in a self-published paperback, titled Against All Odds. He handed copies out to impress friends and clients. But the name change confused some new Calgary pals, who say they were already growing skeptical of their charming British friend’s stories. “He said ‘I changed my name,’ and we started calling him Danny-Aaron,” said a wedding planner who met him through his company, Pinnacle Concierge. The company managed secondary tickets for events, including passes to parties at the Playboy Mansion in Los Angeles. “He made it sound like he was going to host his own private parties. People buy the tickets and resell them, it’s down to scalping at the end of the day,” an event planner says. Clayton was a persistent networker, and had convinced a local event planner to let him handle the mailing list for an exclusive meet-and-greet during a 2007 Art Garfunkel concert. But when photographs of Clayton and the folk star appeared in the pages of another city newspaper, quoting Clayton as having provided concierge services, organizers were quick to react. “He put himself in the paper after getting his picture taken with Art, which wasn’t allowed. He made it look like he put on the show. I called him the next day and yelled at him,” the organizer said. He also befriended an aspiring young singer just out of her teens, and in 2008, he funded her demo CD of self-penned songs. He named himself CEO of NuDecade Records Inc., an independent Calgary-based recording and management company. His career as a music producer began and ended paying for friend Brittany Robart’s recording time. Clayton’s LinkedIn website profile listed a lengthy military history and two university degrees. One was a criminal justice and legal studies degree earned between 2001-2004 at Canterbury Christ Church University, followed by an MBA in risk management at the University of Calgary between 2007 and 2009. But Clayton was never enrolled at U of C, the university confirmed. Clayton’s luck never seemed to run out. And fact-checking never seemed to stop his publicity as a security expert in the local news. He was featured in Business in Calgary magazine’s 2010 Leaders of Tomorrow. He was quoted in Business Edge. When news about the kidnapping of Alberta freelance journalist Amanda Lindhout in Somalia broke, Clayton kept in touch with reporters, offering commentary with an insider’s perspective. “We have the location of where she is. We have a cellphone number for the group that’s actually holding her,” Clayton was quoted saying in the Toronto Star on Aug. 23, 2009. “We have a lot of credible intelligence. Enough to mount a rescue if the government was so inclined.” It was a bold statement, and one that newsrooms jumped on as Lindhout’s captivity dominated headlines. When the Globe and Mail published an online story Nov. 26, 2009, quoting Clayton saying that his company provided “regular intelligence reports on the case of what we found out” to Lindhout’s family and the federal government, and that “hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on that operation,” he began to backpedal. Within hours, Clayton issued a hasty news release and started distancing himself from claims he’d had anything to do with Lindhout’s release. The two-page statement said that while he had gathered intelligence on the case, he was never contracted by the family or the government and that his company Diligence “withdrew our involvement approximately six months ago, when we learned of other efforts being co-ordinated to rescue Amanda.” But he couldn’t help himself from adding: “There is no way to measure how the information we cultivated and provided to the family and the Canadian Government may have assisted in the success of Amanda’s negotiation and subsequent release.” A 250-word biography followed, noting Clayton was a published author, regular media commentator, entrepreneur and philanthropist. “He honestly caused a lot of anxiety to a lot of people and put lives at risk,” said a Lindhout family friend. “It wasn’t a game. What he was doing was untrue and dangerous.” Clayton’s exaggerated world came crashing down after an illicit Internet chat with an undercover Toronto police officer. Clayton, whose user name was Intotaboo, claimed to have had sex with his sister when she was between three and nine years old. Police found thousands of images of child pornography downloaded on Clayton’s computer. Many of them were unspeakably violent, showing children in various sex acts with adults, including an 11-year-old girl being raped by a man identified as her father. “Babies being sexually abused in every way,” said Crown prosecutor Jenny Rees. After Clayton’s arrest on April 15, 2010, investigators said he earlier participated in 74 sexually explicit web chats on 37 separate days on a peer-to-peer computer program between December 2009 and April 2010. In court, Clayton’s defence lawyer Balfour Der tried to cast doubt on the case, saying Clayton was the victim of a computer virus, and that the IP address was hacked. “This would have to be the world’s greatest hacker,” Rees countered. Court of Queen’s Bench Justice Kristine Eidsvik agreed. Clayton gave alibis trying to say he wasn’t at home on his computer on several instances, but couldn’t answer for many other times. The judge also caught him in a lie, she said, when he claimed to have been in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake. The judge called Clayton’s testimony “dishonest,” “unbelievable,” “inconsistent,” and “unreliable.” The arrest postponed Clayton’s wedding to fiancee Leah McInnis. While the engagement is off, McInnis remains his girlfriend, court heard during sentencing. Despite his double life, friends and colleagues describe Clayton as creative, caring, generous, thoughtful, reliable and dedicated. To that list he adds innocent as well. Clayton remained stoic as a judge sentenced him to three years in prison last month. He passed reporters handwritten messages, maintaining his innocence and intention to appeal. He is wrongfully accused, he wrote. Before he was led away by a sheriff, Clayton voiced one request: He asked the judge for copies of files from his seized computer. Besides holding hundreds of images of child pornography, the laptop was used by Clayton nearly every waking hour. “It’s everything I’ll probably need to set myself back up in business,” he said, already planning for the future. “It’s basically my entire life.”