A “CALLOUS” novice gardening services tradesman left a “vulnerable” couple heartbroken and out of pocket by £3,180 after failing to complete work he had been paid to perform.

Andrew Iveson, trading as AWP Home Improvements, found himself out of his depth after being asked to carry out work at the Spennymoor garden of a man with terminal brain cancer.

He and his wife wanted the garden transformed to provide a peaceful haven for him in the months before his death.

But, despite continually asking them for more money to pay for materials to complete the job, he failed to fulfil his pledges to work up to 12 hours’ a day to finish the work and left them with a huge mound of dug up soil in their garden.

Durham Crown Court was told despite being told of the importance of finishing the work promptly, so the husband of the family could enjoy his last months in tranquil surrounds, Iveson, whose attendance had been sporadic, stopped going at all and did not respond to their many attempts to contact him.

Anthony Pettengell, prosecuting, said prior to that he had used excuses such as shortage of materials, Covid and other jobs as excuses for not carrying out the work.

In the end the family had to rely on friends and relations to do their best to tidy up the garden prior to the death of the householder.

An independent assessment stated that of the £10,250 paid to Iveson, from a total quote of £13,360, the family was considered to be £3,180 out of pocket.

Mr Pettengell said there was also the inconvenience given what was going on in their lives at the time.

Iveson was interviewed in February last year and denied committing fraud, claiming he spent all of the money received on materials and had to sell his van due to bankruptcy during the course of trying to complete the work.

Mr Pettengell said there was no record of Iveson filing for bankruptcy.

The 32-year-old defendant, of Elderby Close, Newton Aycliffe, admitted two counts of fraud and one money laundering offence, all said to have taken place between September and November, 2020, when he appeared before magistrates recently.

Magistrates committed the case, brought by Durham County Council's trading standards department, to the crown court for sentence.

A statement was read to the sentencing hearing by the victim who spoke of the, “pain, stress and anger”, it had caused her and her late husband, prior to his death.

She added that the, “only saving grace” was the support of family and friends, helping to tidy the garden and complete the job as best they could.

Read more: Billingham trader told to pay £2,400 compensation to customers

Robin Turton, mitigating, presented character testimonials to the court on Iveson’s behalf.

Mr Turton said his early guilty plea indicated his client’s, “genuine remorse”.

He described him as, “a hard-working man” who is, “racked with guilt and shame”, over the case.

Mr Turton said Iveson was never previously self-employed, but set up his business having returned to the region for the birth of his first child in June 2020.

He said he had been “naïve” as to what was required and became, “over-committed”, having under-quoted for jobs in his efforts to find work.

Mr Turton said it led to him selling his van as he was so short of money.

“He just buried his head in the sand and didn’t know what to tell them and reacted in a rather unsophisticated way to the problem that was there, rather than taking a grip on it.

“He didn’t genuinely set out to commit a fraud.

“He just wasn’t able to cope and was, in effect, out of his depth.”

Mr Turton said Iveson is now working as a welder and if he was spared jail he would work to pay back the outstanding money.

Judge James Adkin told Iveson he, “promised them (the victims) the earth and delivered little.”, leaving their garden, “looking like a builder’s yard.”

Imposing a 12-month prison sentence, Judge Adkin said due to the, “utter callousness” of the fraud it had to be an immediate jail term.

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