A CALLOUS trickster preyed on vulnerable pensioners by claiming to have spotted damage to their roofs while working in the area.
Heartless Thomas Connors then climbed up and caused the damage himself to con his victims, at least one of whom suffers from dementia, into paying him for unnecessary work.
And a judge at Warwick Crown Court was unmoved by a call for Connors, who now uses a walking frame and was carrying a bag of medication, to be shown mercy because of his own poor health.
Connors, 64, of Mere Lane, Lutterworth, was jailed for 20 months after pleading guilty to two charges of fraud, criminal damage and possessing articles for use in fraud.
Prosecutor Andrew Wilkins said that in March 2018 an 89-year-old man who is hard of hearing and showing signs of dementia and his 91-year-old wife were at their home in Earlsdon, Coventry, when Connors knocked on the door.
Connors told the husband he and his accomplice were working in the area and had noticed some damage to the roof of his house, which they could repair for £130 while they were there.
Convinced by Connors that the work did need doing, the pensioner went to get the money.
While he was away from the door, Connors walked into the house and into the living room where he startled the wheelchair-bound wife, who screamed out.
Connors left the house and climbed up a ladder to the roof, where a younger man had already gone – and they were then both seen removing tiles and deliberately damaging brickwork.
They then claimed more work was needed, and that they would need a £1,000 deposit to hire machinery.
But by then the old man had become suspicious, having had something similar happen to him once before, and threatened to call the police – at which Connors and his accomplice left.
The following week Connors targeted an 85-year-old man with dementia who lived on his own in Northfield, Birmingham.
Neighbours had seen Connors and another man messing with the guttering to make it look as if it was leaking before speaking to the pensioner, who is believed to have handed over up to £500.
But once Connors realised the neighbours were paying an interest in his activity, he and his accomplice beat a hasty retreat – driving off with the boot of their car still open.
When he was arrested in July that year, Connors, who had been jailed for six years for conspiracy to defraud in 2011 and for 45 weeks for a similar fraud in 2016, denied he was the person involved – and he initially denied the charges, added Mr Wilkins.
James Doyle, defending, conceded: “He did not have the good sense to plead guilty at the first opportunity, but at least he has had the good grace to enter guilty pleas.
“He would also like it to be known to the court that he offers to pay compensation for the cost of the damage within 28 days, approximately £1,500.
“There is really nothing that can be said in terms of his offending, save that he’s sorry for what he’s done, and he would like the court to know this is the end. He’s finished, he will not be before the courts again.”
Mr Doyle accepted that Connors’ victims were vulnerable, but said he was also vulnerable, suffering from heart problem, for which he had a stent inserted in 2016, chronic kidney disease and muscular pain.
But Judge Sylvia de Bertodano observed: “He was clearly a much better man in March 2018.”
Mr Doyle added: “If he got ill in prison with Covid, it would be life-threatening. He does not deserve any sympathy, but nevertheless I ask for the mercy of the court.”
Jailing Connors, Judge de Bertodano still ordered him to pay £1,630 compensation to his first victim.
She told him: “These offences are very serious, and I am not the first judge to say that to you.
“These are vulnerable people holding on to what remains of their independence, and you are taking advantage of them.
“I don’t doubt you are in poor health, and that your health is likely to deteriorate in the inevitable prison setting in which you will find yourself – but despite your poor health, there must be a prison sentence.”