A rogue tradesman who deliberately targeted vulnerable elderly householders, has been jailed for three-and-a-half years for fraudulent activity over more than three years.

John Reid pressured his two victims, one in his mid-90s and with hearing difficulties, to pay for work which was not necessary and then came back for more money claiming extra funding was required to complete the jobs.

But Durham Crown Court heard that what work was carried out to their homes or gardens was sub-standard and some had to be rectified.

Reid would turn up at times unannounced and offer to accompany his victims to their banks to withdraw the money he was seeking.

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The 43-year-old defendant, of Mardale Street, Hetton-le-Hole, who received a community order last July for a more recent similar separate offence, denied six counts of fraud, covering a period from October 2017 to January 2021.

But, following a four-day trial last week, he was convicted on all six counts on unanimous jury verdicts, for sums totalling £13,180.

The hearing was told the most elderly victim, by then a 97-year-old widower, died little more than 24 hours before he was to give his pre-recorded evidence prior to the trial.

Giving a victim statement, his son said the final offence involved the defendant arriving at his father’s house without warning and escorting him to the bank to withdraw £3,390, including £1,200 that the Crown was unable to say was specifically part of the fraud.

The statement said: “My father was a hard-working, good man

“There’s no doubt my father was vulnerable, and it made him an easy target.

“After Reid was arrested I told him about it and it troubled him.

“My father said he felt put under pressure to have the work done.”

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Speaking about his father’s death, just before he was due to give evidence, he said: “I always wonder if it was too much of a co-incidence to be ignored.”

He thanked his father’s neighbours for coming to his assistance on one of Reid’s unannounced visits to his home, adding: “Had they not done so, this fraud might never have come to light.

The other victim said he lost almost half of his modest pension, and he feels it was down to his “soft nature”, having given Reid some of the money as, “a loan”, which was never repaid.

“I don’t like confrontation, which is why I didn’t challenge him about the work he did.

“I worked hard for my pension and it’s upsetting.”

The victim has had to return to work, in a pub, to make up for the losses from his pension.

Jennifer Coxon, for Reid, told the court: “Naturally, given we had had a trial, there’s little I can say about the offending here.

“He’s in ill-health himself, claiming benefits, having never lived an extravagant lifestyle.”

Miss Coxon said relating to the work initially carried out by the defendant, “it would appear he was appropriately charged, and the defendant wouldn’t have made a gain from that offence alone.

“That can’t be said about the other offences.”

Recorder Tom Moran said relating to sub-standard work for the elderly victim: “I’m sure, because of his age, you thought you would get away with it.

“A lot of that work needed re-doing. That conduct enabled you to gain his trust.

“You were described as, ‘a good talker’, convincing the victims to gain their trust.”

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Recorder Moran told Reid: “Your behaviour was persistent, callous and, frankly, despicable.”

He told Reid he used his “smooth-talking” to “exploit” his victims.

Imposing the 42-month prison sentence, Record Moran also put in train crime proceeds proceedings, with a confiscation hearing timetabled at the court for May 30.