A CONMAN used a stolen chequebook from the Queen's bank of choice to try to buy a £34,000 car in York.

John Betteridge, 46, of Vine Street off Bishopthorpe Road, York, was selling his Hummer through internet auction site eBay.

At around Christmas time a man telephoned and emailed him to say he had seen pictures of the car on the internet and wanted to buy it.

As he made an offer a couple of thousand pounds less than the asking price Mr Betteridge thought it was a genuine offer, but there were delays with the money coming through and he thought the deal had fallen through.

But the buyer got back in touch with Mr Betteridge, apologised for the delays, said he had arranged some finance and the money would be in Mr Betteridge's account in a week.

The buyer was as good as his word and a cheque made out from Wardrobe Beautiful Clothes Ltd was sent direct to the HSBC in Parliament Street in York for £64,000 - £30,000 more than the agreed price.

The cheque was issued by Coutts Bank - which ranks the Royal family and some of Britain's wealthiest people among its customers.

But Mr Betteridge's suspicions were raised because of the overpayment, although the alleged buyer, who confirmed the money would be paid from Wardrobe Ltd's account, did telephone him to say a mistake had been made and could Mr Betteridge return the balance once the cheque had cleared to a given bank account.

Mr Betteridge said he would, but also arranged for the HSBC to confirm the cheque was genuine.

On Monday he received a call from the bank to say everything appeared fine, but not to do anything yet. Then on Tuesday afternoon he received a call saying the cheque had come from a stolen chequebook.

Mr Betteridge said: "The bank told me that if I had withdrawn the money and released the vehicle I would have been liable for six years from the day the cheque cleared. I would have lost the car, lost the money and been totally out of pocket."

He said he had been expecting the money to be wire transferred and thought the conman may have sent the cheque directly to HSBC to avoid raising suspicions.

But he admitted that if the conman had not been greedy and had sent a cheque for the correct amount he would probably have released the car to him.

So far he has received no word from the man.

A spokesman for HSBC said the matter was now being investigated. He said it was often difficult to trace the criminal in these kinds of fraud and that even though account details were given for the balance to be returned to it may well be that the account is in the name of an innocent dupe.