Conman jailed for tricking Norfolk pensioners, including a 91-year-old blind woman

A career criminal who tricked his way in to the homes of elderly people - including a 91-year-old blind woman - was yesterday jailed for five years.

Darren Gallagher 37, travelled around Norfolk and surrounding counties and carried out a string of doorstep burglaries targeting elderly vulnerable people after telling them they needed building work carrying out, Norwich Crown Court heard.

One of the first victims of his doorstep crime was a 91 year-old registered blind woman, from Swaffham, who is also partly deaf, who he conned out of �6000.

Gallagher called saying he had to carry out work on her chimney and got her to hand over �160 in cash after pretending to talk to the victim's son on the phone.

Kevin Eastwick, prosecuting, said that he then got the woman to open her garden shed but when she returned she found he had stolen �6000 in cash from her bag.

Jailing him for five years Judge Alasdair Darroch told Gallagher: 'Very few crimes cause more outrage than the targeting of elderly people up to 91 years of age. It was perfectly obvious to you they were very elderly and they would be greatly upset and lose much of their confidence. You have done this sort of thing before and you are now saying you have to stop. I very much hope that you have.'

He said the message had to go out that this sort of offending would be dealt with very severely and said he would be taking him out of 'circulation' for a very long time.

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The judge also ordered that a vehicle belonging to Gallagher should be confiscated and sold to try to compensate the victims.

The sentence was welcomed by Norfolk Police's Operation Radar team, which was set up to tackle doorstep crime and distraction burglaries.

After the case Det Con Steve Moseley, of Operation Radar, said: 'Gallagher has made a career out of targeting elderly people in order to deceive them out of money or steal money from their homes.'

He said the sentence sent out a warning that this type of crime would be dealt with severely.

Det Sgt Peter Jessop, who heads the Operation Radar team, added: 'This was a thorough investigation involving three of our neighbouring forces and shows that co-ordinating working gets the right results. Gallagher was moving between counties hoping to evade capture - unfortunately for him and other criminals, these opportunities are greatly reducing.'

He added: 'Distraction burglary is only part of the story and the hard work we have put in over the last four years in the area around doorstep crime appears to be working. We are breaking the national trends with the reduction.'

The court heard that four days after Gallagher conned the woman in Swaffham, he called at another 80 year-old pensioner's home in Bodham, near Holt, again pretending to need to do building work but fled empty handed after the man's grand-daughter arrived.

He also conned a 78 year-old woman on Plumstead Road, in Norwich, into handing him �2000 which he claimed was for roofing work.

Mr Eastwick said that Gallagher, who sometimes used the name David White to his victims. also got a pensioner in their 80s living in Spalding, Lincs to pay �500 for building work, another 80 year-old from Lincolnshire to hand over �230 and 86 year-old from Boston, Lincs to give him �270.

He said that in impact statements from some of the victims they said how the burglaries had left them feeling insecure and distressed although one victim had also said how she felt anger at what had happened.

He said that a Land Rover Discovery belonging to Gallagher had been seized and it was hoped this would be confiscated and sold at auction to raise the money to pay the victims back their cash

Gallagher, of Saddlebow Road caravan park, King's Lynn, admitted six counts of burglary and the court heard he is already presently serving a sentence for another similar burglary on a pensioner in Suffolk.

His previous convictions also showed that Gallagher had carried out a string of similar offences in the past in the Lincoln area.

Adam Budsworth, mitigating, said that Gallager was full of remorse and had agreed that his vehicle could be sold to pay back the victims.

'The defendant has come to the end of his offending behaviour.'

He said the father of four was a marked man and would be watched on his release.'He is a marked man and he knows it and he knows he has got to stop this. This is a defendant who is truly remorseful.'

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