Dereham pensioner tricked out of her life savings by ‘evil’ conman

An 'evil' conman was last night starting a three-year jail term for tricking a trusting Norfolk pensioner out of more than �90,000 after preying on her over a five-year period.

Billy William Smith, 31, duped Daphne White, 72, into handing over her life savings by telling her she needed work doing on her bungalow in Dereham.

Mrs White had been very vulnerable and was suffering from health problems and so kept paying Smith, even though he was not actually doing any work.

His main con was to tell Mrs White that her home needed damp proofing or it would sustain serious structural problems and, as she believed him and trusted him, Mrs White handed over the money.

Norfolk Police's Operation RADAR team – which tackles rogue traders and distraction burglars – got involved after the Dereham branch of the Halifax Bank alerted them when Mrs White applied for a �12,000 loan to pay for more work to be done.

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They spent 18 months investigating the case and on Monday at Norwich Crown Court, Smith, of The Splashes, Castle Acre Road, Swaffham, was jailed for three years after admitting three offences of conspiracy to defraud Mrs White of a total of �92,275 by false representation.

Mrs White, whose husband died in 1997, said: 'I was on my own and had a lot of health problems and trusted him that I needed the work to be done and he took advantage of me.

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'Looking back it was a stupid thing for me to do and I know that the frame of mind I am now in, I would never have taken him on to do the work.'

Mrs White said Smith – and Michael Rooksby who has already been jailed for three years for his part in the con – had been 'demeaning and sneaky.'

'If it had not been for the bank alerting the police it could have still been going on now. I think they should have got longer sentences but I am relieved that they are in prison and I can get on with the rest of my life and I do not worry about it now.'

She has shown real strength in the way she has dealt with the deception and police have praised her courage.

Mrs White, who moved to Dereham from London 26 years ago, added: 'I was really down but it was a mistake and I thought I had to overcome it and hold myself together.'

She urged other people to be on their guard against doorstep conmen and not to give out personal information.

Mrs White had first been approached by Smith who talked to her about taking her old shed down and then putting gravel down and it developed from there.

Smith had always insisted on having cash rather then cheques.

Det Con Steve Moseley, of the Operation RADAR team, was the officer in the case and said Mrs White had been 'fantastic'.

'When I was first called she was very confused but she has now grown her confidence again and she was able to identify Smith and Rooksby and that helped in securing their convictions.'

Det Con Moseley said the con trick on Mrs White was 'evil and dreadful'.

'This is the worst case I have seen in this area. It was a well planned operation and it was acted out over five years. They used lies to scheme and trick her and convince her into paying large sums of money.'

He added: 'There are people out there now who will be doing this to other victims.'

Det Con Moseley urged people not to 'jump in straight away' to have work on their homes done and to carry out checks on companies.

He also said householders should seek advice from family and friends and neighbours.

Det Con Moseley praised the bank staff for their part in bringing the conmen to justice,

The court heard Smith wanted to spare Mrs White having to go to court as she had already had to give evidence in the trial of Rooksby, 23, who was found guilty of defrauding Mrs White out of �27,000.

Sentencing Smith, Judge Alasdair Darroch said that he had 'ripped off' a vulnerable person.

'You did virtually no work for this lady and have relieved her of a very substantial sum of money.'

He said that he was much more involved than Rooksby but accepted he had given evidence for the prosecution at Rooksby's trial and deserved credit for that.

Darren Snow, for Smith, said he pleaded guilty to spare the victim having to give evidence. 'He should be given the maximum credit. He accepts his behaviour was totally unacceptable, wrong and dishonest.'

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