A WELL-PRACTISED confidence trickster stole from elderly people he ‘befriended’ as a supposed Good Samaritan, a court heard.

John Hindson - who has a long history of theft, handling stolen goods and deception - took almost £3,000 from a woman in her 70s plus an insurance instalment he was supposed to pay on behalf of an 86-year-old neighbour.

Durham Crown Court heard he vanished on June 18, 2012, days before the ‘opening’ of a fictitious restaurant venture in which he persuaded the woman to invest a loan of £2,000 in.

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It was also less than a fortnight before he, his partner and a family friend were supposed to go on a pre-booked holiday for which he had collected £900 from the other woman.

Adrian Dent, prosecuting, said such was the initial concern that Hindson was reported missing, but it was not until late last November that he was ‘found’ and arrested, through medical records, at a Blackpool address.

He made immediate admissions and admitted two counts of theft at his first court appearance before North Durham magistrates last month.

The case was committed for sentence at Durham Crown Court, where 64-year-old Hindson, of Livingstone Road, Blackpool, chose to be unrepresented today (Thursday April 10).

The court heard he has a long record for similar offending, serving a 33-month sentence in 1992, but nothing since 1998.

Mr Dent said: “This was mean, reprehensible and seems to have been perpetrated on vulnerable people he got to know.

“It was a throwback to his former manner of offending.”

Mr Dent said it came about after he befriended a 71-year-old woman in the Chester-le-Street area, who he moved in with, having become friendly with her friend, also in her 70s, who lived in the same flat complex.

Hindson appeared to be genuinely helping them, running shopping errands and making bank withdrawals on their behalf.

But after his “flit”, he left his partner with £6,500 of debt, including doorstep loans, and it was discovered he made unauthorised cash withdrawals of £840 using the friend’s bank cash card.

Hindson told the court: “All I can say is I’m sorry for what happened. I have a terrible record.

“I was proud to have stayed out of trouble for all those years.”

Asked by Judge Neil Clark why he did it, Hindson said: “I can’t answer that. I just don’t know.”

Imposing a nine-month prison sentence, suspended for two years, Judge Clark told him: “You’re a confidence trickster, preying on vulnerable people."

He made Hindson subject of a four-month 7pm -7am home curfew and ordered him to repay £600 to his victims.