Ex-Arsenal academy star whose career ended by injury jailed after frauds 'to still fund footballer's life'

Jaydon Thorbourne
Jaydon Thorbourne

An ex-Arsenal trainee stole money from his girlfriend in a romance fraud to bankroll the luxury lifestyle he lost when injury wrecked his football career.

Jaydon Thorbourne was on the verge of Premier League stardom when he suffered a hip injury at the age of 18, ending his sporting ambitions and sending him spiralling into criminality.

Rather than trophies and footballing accolades, the 26-year-old has a clutch of convictions to his name – including 27 offences of fraud committed between 2018 and 2022.

At Harrow crown court on Friday, Thorbourne was sentenced to two years and five months in prison for a fresh set of offences, including swindling a girlfriend in the run-up to Valentine’s Day, defrauding hotels, Pizza Hut, and a central London health clinic, and a vicious assault on a taxi driver.

“Mr Thorbourne has a history with Arsenal football club”, said defence barrister Jack Kiffin.

“He was widely considered as someone who was going to make it in football, but a hip injury ended his career and his criminality began.”

He told the sentencing hearing: “This is a man who, from the age of eight to 18, thought life was going in one direction and then found it was not.

“He was replicating the lifestyle he thought he was going to have.

“It doesn’t excuse his behaviour but it is an important light in which to see his behaviour.”

Jason Thorbourne in his Arsenal Days
Jason Thorbourne in his Arsenal Days

The court heard Thorbourne, who played left back in the Arsenal academy and had a spell with Crystal Palace, began dating a woman on February 8, 2022, and within days he asked her to transfer £480 into his bank account, promising a repayment in cash.

She then realised - just before Valentine’s Day - that he had cloned her bank card and was using it to make a series of purchases.

“I opened myself up and let him into my life, he met my close friends and stayed at my flat”, she said, in a victim impact statement.

“It has been very difficult to trust people’s intentions.”

She said of Thorbourne: “I feel like he was two different people – he has a Jekyll and Hyde character.”

In January 2021, Thorbourne booked himself into the Citadines hotel in Islington under an alias, and when the manager was away from the reception desk he used the card machine to process refunds to himself totalling £9066.

A quick-thinking hotel staffer spotted the suspicious refunds and cancelled them, before alerting other Citadines hotels in London. Thorbourne was arrested a couple of days later when attempting to check into another Citadines with a counterfeit passport.

In January 2022, Thorbourne used the staff card machine and a passcode to help himself to £7,307 in refunds from Pizza Hut stores, while posing as a legitimate customer.

He also swindled the Reviv clinic in Great Portland Street after booking himself in for treatments.

Prosecutor Rose Slowe said Thorbourne “must have skimmed the card machine” during two transactions, in order to funnel £5796 in refunds to himself.

In 2020, Thorbourne was jailed for 26 weeks for running up a £3,700 bill on a woman’s American Express card, while they were staying the night together at a City hotel. That crime happened just a few weeks after he had been set free from prison.

On Friday, Thorbourne was also sentenced for a June 2019 assault on a taxi driver, when he grabbed the man by the neck and punched him repeatedly in the face.

The victim said he was “too scared to go back to work as a taxi driver” after the attack, and has been left without a job and struggling to support his family.

“He has racked up a truly dispiriting list of convictions”, added Mr Kiffin.

Thorbourne pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm, possession of a false identification document, seven counts of fraud by false representation, two counts of possession of an article for use in fraud, and possession of cannabis.

The court heard Thorbourne has been in custody since August last year after he admitted the taxi driver assault.