Children who duped 77-year-old woman: A bogus caller has made one elderly woman distrustful, writes Nick Walker

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The Independent Online
WINIFRED is 77. She has lived alone in her terrace house in east London for the last six years, since her husband died.

Last February she was the victim of a bogus caller, or 'burglary artifice' as it is known to the police.

There are four bolts and two double locks on Winifred's (not her real name) front door. She has been too frightened and ashamed to tell her family and neighbours of her ordeal.

'The front doorbell rang, and there was a young boy who looked about 12, just a bit younger than my grandson, standing there. He said his kitten had gone into my back garden.'

She shut the front door and searched her back garden. Finding nothing, she returned and told the boy.

'I shut the door again, but he just kept ringing and ringing. In the end he was in tears, saying his kitten would die if he didn't find it.

'I let him in. By that time it was getting dark, and we spent about half an hour in the garden with a torch.

'Suddenly, he disappeared and when I got into the house, everything had gone. I went beserk. I was petrified he might be in my house. I called the police.'

According to Con Eric Woodhouse, who deals with many such crimes, bogus callers often work in twos, one diverting the victim's attention while the other ransacks the home. These thieves stole pounds 200 and pounds 1,200 worth of jewellery.

Two boys, one 13 and one 14, were arrested and charged. The 13-year-old was ordered to pay pounds 100 compensation and spend 24 hours in an attendance centre; the case against the 14- year-old was dropped.

'I saw him grinning and laughing with his friends as he left the court,' Winifred said. 'Children you think you can trust, but when it comes to what I have experienced you don't know who you can trust.

'I still jump every time the bell rings. I peek through the curtains to see who it is. You feel like a prisoner in your own home.'