‘‘It’s me living a lie, isn’t it?’’ ...  Mr Crane in Brisbane last week.

‘‘It’s me living a lie, isn’t it?’’ ... Mr Crane in Brisbane last week. Photo: Paul Harris

THE Australian Federal Police are investigating the president of the Ex-Prisoners of War Association of Australia, Rex Crane, after he was exposed as a fake.

Veterans' Affairs Minister Alan Griffin said he was disgusted by the revelations.

"I know these allegations will be distressing for the veteran community and I fully understand why. Those who have sacrificed so much for our country are rightly outraged when fraud of this nature occurs," Mr Griffin said.

Lynette Silver, one of the three women who uncovered Mr Crane's true past, yesterday said former POWs were disturbed by the revelations.

''The POWs I have spoken to, they are appalled, shocked and disgusted, and they feel betrayed," she said.

Mr Crane has received $405,000 in Commonwealth payments since 1988, when he applied for the highest level of war pension, which is designated for totally and permanently incapacitated veterans.

Yet he was never a prisoner of war and never served in any military force.

For almost 30 years he had told his family, friends and the federal government that he had been forced to enlist in 1941 in Malaya after he was abandoned there at age 15 by his parents.

He had claimed that he served as a member of a behind-enemy-lines unit before being captured, imprisoned in Singapore's Outram Road Jail and sent to the Burma-Thai railway, where he said he had endured crucifixion and other forms of torture at the hands of the Japanese.

Mr Crane was instead attending Adelaide High School in 1941 before taking up a boiler-making apprenticeship not far from where he was living in Prospect, South Australia.

Confronted by The Sydney Morning Herald on Wednesday, Mr Crane confessed, saying: "It's me living a lie, isn't it? I can see me doing 15 to 20 years here."

Mr Griffin said he had alerted the federal police on Thursday, after the Herald contacted his office.

"Personally, I think for anyone to impersonate a prisoner of war is disgusting,'' he said. ''It is a betrayal of all the values our veterans stand for.

"Should these allegations be proven, it will illustrate to what lengths some individuals will go to to defraud our system and the large amounts of money that can be involved."

Ms Silver said: "This matter should be pursued to the fullest extent of the law and I am confident that the AFP will do so. I am gratified that the minister thinks this is as serious a matter as the three of us always thought, and that Mr Crane will be made to answer to a court of law for his disgraceful action."

Ms Silver was convinced the man was lying. ''I also knew that he definitely could not have been in Outram Road Jail. We have got the complete list of people that went into that jail. I knew that Rex Crane was definitely not on the list.''