We must stop scumbags who prey on the old


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The Independent Online

There’s little that annoys me more than crooks who prey on older, vulnerable people.

Those who read my column in last Saturday’s i will recall the story of the unscrupulous estate agent who tricked an 88-year-old suffering from dementia into selling his home for almost half its value.

This week a similar story has come to light, with the victim  a 67-year-old widow called  Josephine Stubbings. She  wanted some work done on her Berkhamsted house so turned to the Yellow Pages to find a builder.

Sadly she rang one who then befriended her so he could trick her out of her life savings, a court was told. John Jenkins, from Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, was accused of theft and fraud by false representation.

Mrs Stubbings lived a frugal existence, the court heard, but through clever investments made by herself and her late husband, had managed to salt away more than £500,000.

But only three years after contacting Jenkins, 70, she had nothing left. He had taken the lot by persuading her to do more and more work on her home and vastly overcharging her for it.

Shockingly her plight only came to light after she was forced to ask a neighbour to borrow some money to buy food.

The police became involved and examined six bank accounts belonging to Jenkins. They found the widow had paid the builder a total of £530,000. A surveyor later calculated that the value of the work done at her home should have cost no more than £60,000.

Jenkins was found guilty of fraud at St Albans Crown Court on Monday. But he could not be sentenced because he failed to appear. Reports suggest he may have fled the country.

There’s nothing positive that comes out of this sickening tale. But it reinforces the need for greater protection for older people. There should be tougher regulation and stronger consumer protection laws.

When Jenkins is eventually sentenced, it must be a severe one to warn all scumbags and chancers to stop targeting and victimising old folk.

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