Plumber jailed for charge of £5,000 on £100 job

A tradesman who charged an elderly woman more than £5,000 to unblock a drain was jailed for two and a half years yesterday after admitting a string of similar offences.

A tradesman who charged an elderly woman more than £5,000 to unblock a drain was jailed for two and a half years yesterday after admitting a string of similar offences.

Gary Seabrook went to the home of 72-year-old Muriel Burbridge in Bexhill, East Sussex, in July 2002 after she called a plumbing firm in Yellow Pages.

After telling her the job would take five hours at £35 an hour, the next day he billed her for £5,255. Seabrook said the extra charge was for using diamond cutters to remove tree roots and a jet cleaner to finish the job, although he did neither, Nicholas Hamblin, for the prosecution, told Lewes Crown Court. Seabrook, 41, then drove the retired nurse to the post office and bank so she could withdraw three weeks' pension to pay him part of the money. A plumber told the court the job should have taken no more than 90 minutes and cost £100.

Mrs Burbridge "withdrew into herself" after the incident, according to her family, and died three months later.

Seabrook, of Ashford, Kent, had also charged £2,900 to remove an air freshener from a lavatory at a pub in Flimwell, East Sussex. He admitted six counts of obtaining money by deception.

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