A man accused of fleecing an elderly woman out of more than £1,500 for gardening work has now admitted he falsely claimed illness to explain his failure to attend court.

Ambrose Fletcher, now 32, was not present at Durham Crown Court on August 2, 2022, where he was to face charges of theft and acquiring criminal property, offences which took place in the summer of 2018.

A bench warrant was issued for his arrest and it was finally executed almost 15 months later, leading to Fletcher’s appearance at the court on October 31, last year, when he admitted failing to attend the previously-listed hearing.

He also admitted the original two charges, of theft of £1,582 from an 80-year-old woman, plus acquiring criminal property, the £1,582, both between July 29 and August 2, 2018.

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Judge James Adkin said as Fletcher had been, effectively, “on the run” from court for more than a year, he remanded him in custody.

When he appeared back before the court, by video link from Durham Prison, on November 17, the hearing was told there was consideration of a further charge being brought by the prosecuting body, Durham County Council.

Philip Morley, prosecuting, said it arose from the defendant’s excuses for not attending court previously by the presentation of forged medical documents, but it was still being investigated.

Judge Jo Kidd said: “If he accepts that these letters provided were fraudulent then there’s potentially a more serious offence than the sentence he currently stands to fall for.”

She adjourned the hearing until Tuesday this week (January 30) to allow the council to consider adding the further charge, and remanded Fletcher to remain in custody in the intervening period.

The Northern Echo:

When the case came back before the court, on Tuesday, Fletcher appeared again via video link from Durham Prison.

He was charged with doing acts tending and intended to pervert the course of justice, in that between July 18, 2021, and June 7, 2022, he caused the submission of false medical information to County Durham and Darlington Magistrates’ Court.

Fletcher, once more, pleaded guilty.

His counsel, Glenn Gatland, said there would be a basis of plea submitted to the court, but further information was awaited to put to the sentencing hearing.

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Judge James Adkin adjourned the hearing and told Fletcher: “You have now pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice, as well as having already pleaded guilty to theft and money laundering.”

The judge said all the cases could come together for sentence at the court, later in February.

He remanded Fletcher, of Laburnum Grove, Bishop Auckland, to remain in custody until the sentencing hearing, on February 23.