'Merciless' fraudsters con £176,000 from 94-year-old

Detectives have condemned the "sustained and merciless" fraud of a 94-year-old woman who was conned out of more than £176,000 by a series of rogue traders.

Police said the pensioner was duped into parting with "staggering" sums of money by a succession of fraudsters from September last year to June this year. An appeal has now been issued to help trace those responsible but due to the frailty of the victim, from Fetcham, Surrey, she has been unable to give police descriptions of the suspects.

She was first targeted in September when a man calling himself "Mr Matthews" claimed her roof needed repairing and offered to fix it for £48,000. Surrey Police said that it is not known what, if any, work was carried out or the quality of any repairs.

Two months later, a further £23,000 was paid to "Mr Matthews" and then later that month a cheque for £10,000 was written to a "Mr Sparrow" who claimed he worked for an insurance firm overseeing the repairs. In January this year, "Mr Sparrow" returned to the victim's house claiming building regulations had changed and he required an additional £48,000, which was provided by cheque.

Another three cheques, totalling £28,000, were paid out between January and April, and between May and June the victim handed over £19,135 in cheques.