Final man jailed after conning 84-year-old woman - Luton

22/04/2014

A man who persuaded an elderly woman dementia sufferer to drop off large amounts of cash at a bus stop or in a lay by was today, Tuesday, 22 April 2014, jailed for four and a half years.

Francis Doherty, 36, his brother Hughie Doherty and their brother-in-law David Young, conned their 84-year-old victim out of £73,500 - most of her life savings.

The men were caught when her bank manager became suspicious as they tried to extract another £15,000 from the widow, who lived alone in the village of Blunham, Beds.

The Doherty brothers, from Northants, claimed they played no part in the theft of the money and made their living breeding a horse known as the Gypsy Cob, but were convicted by a jury at Luton Crown Court at an earlier hearing. Young pleaded guilty to the charges of theft and attempted theft.

The woman, who was in the early stages of dementia, received a telephone call, in the summer of 2010, from a man calling himself Oliver, who spoke with a middle class, professional accent and said he was a solicitor.  'Oliver' claimed he could help her get back the £25,000 that she had lost when she had been the victim of conmen, who had also claimed they could retrieve the money she had handed over to 'lawyers' after shoddy work had been carried out on her driveway in 2004.  Again the victim was told she would have to pay for advanced legal services and, as a result, was persuaded to cash in insurance policies.  In the months that followed, she got cash out of her bank account on eight occasions which, following instructions from the man Oliver, she put in envelopes and left at either a bus stop in Blunham or at a nearby lay-by. Between the summer of 2010 and February 2011, she handed over £73,500.

Prosecutor David Stanton said none of the money had ever been recovered. He said: "These despicable offences were a planned operation by three defendants who took advantage of an 84-year-old woman who was suffering from dementia.  "She didn't confide in her family or say what was going on. No legal work was being carried out for her. She was being taken for the money. All the money was stolen from her."

In March 2011 Beds Police were alerted after the manager at the Nat West bank in Bedford became concerned when the victim inquired when an insurance policy would mature. He checked her account and discovered the eight earlier withdrawals. The manager called her son, who contacted the police.

On 15 March the victim received a call from 'Oliver' telling her she should go to the bank that day and withdraw £15,000.  A trap was set and police were watching when a green Land Rover Discovery with three men inside was seen twice driving slowly past the woman's home. Not long afterwards it was involved in a short police chase before stopping.  Inside the car, which belonged to Francis Doherty, were the brothers plus their brother-in-law. Also in the car was Young's mobile phone which had been smashed up.

The prosecutor said a police sniffer dog and its handler later followed the route the Land Rover had taken during the short chase and, as a result, three pieces of paper were found by the roadside, one of which had the name of the pensioner written on it together with her phone number.  Fingerprints from Young and Francis Doherty were found on the pieces of paper. When Young's smashed up mobile phone was analysed, it was discovered that it had been used to make 13 calls to the woman's home that day.

Francis Doherty, 36, of Gipsy Lane, Irchester, Wellingborough, Northants and his 31-year-old brother Hughie Doherty of Newton Road, Rushden Northants, pleaded not guilty to the theft of £73,700 from the elderly woman between June of 2010 and February of 2011. They denied a second charge of attempting to steal £15,000 from her in March 2011 on the day of their arrest. They were convicted of both charges. Young, aged 31, of Ermine Way, Arrington near Royston, pleaded guilty to the charges.

Hughie Doherty was in breach of a 12 month sentence suspended for 2 years passed at Northampton crown court on 5 January 2010 for fraud by false representation.  He had posed as a Trading Standards Officer and tried to extract £7,000 from a 72-year-old man.

Francis Doherty's barrister Peter Higginson said he was held in high standing in the community with his neighbours and priest. He said he had built up one the largest collection of Gypsy Cob horses in the south of England. He had no previous convictions for fraud.

Judge Stuart Bridge today jailed Francis Doherty to four and a half years.

Last month he sentenced father-of-six Hughie Doherty to a total of five years.  He jailed father-of-one Young, a ground worker, who had spent 11 months on remand in custody, to 3 and a half years.

He said: "The fragile mental state of the victim was perfectly apparent. It was an audacious fraud, carefully planned and callously executed. You realised she was easy prey. You were insatiable and carried on taking, taking and taking, only stopping when your cover was blown."  The judge said the effect on the victim was "appalling" and entirely predictable. It was painful and humiliating and caused a deterioration in her health from which she will never recover.

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