Victims of a horse box scam, which saw a father and son flee the region with hundreds of thousands of pounds of customers' cash, admitted last night they have lost hope of recovering their money.

And more than a year after Gary and Ryan Upson disappeared, detectives have admitted they have no idea where they are, and are no nearer to tracking them down.

The pair fled their Darlington business - Just Trucks - last May, leaving scores of customers out of pocket after taking orders for horse boxes that were never delivered. They are now believed to be overseas.

Their business partner, Karen Winks, had to sell her home to help repay the debts the Upsons left behind.

The Northern Echo exclusively revealed the Upsons had operated a similar scam in Essex in the early 1990s.

Although customers initially hoped to recover some of their losses, many have now accepted they will not - but remained optimistic that the pair would be caught.

Ian and Angela Greensitt, from Wakefield, gave the Upsons a £10,000 deposit on a horse box.

Mr Greensitt said: "I know we aren't going to get our money back, we've been resigned to that for quite a while, but I would love to see them in court."

Tom Blair, 62, paid over £62,000 for a motor home for his disabled son, Iain, who has cerebral palsy.

Mr Blair, from Middlesbrough, said: "There might be a chance of recovering some of the money, a very small amount - less than ten per cent - from insolvency proceedings but really we can only hope."

Carol Chester, 48, a nurse from Earlston, Scotland, lost a £10,000 deposit, which she said had taken "a lifetime to get".

"I see the only way forward now is for police to catch them. They need to be stopped from doing this," she said.

Detective Constable Dave Sampson, from Durham Police's fraud squad, admitted they did not know where the Upsons were and said investigations must be completed before police could apply for a European arrest warrant.

"The investigation is ongoing and despite numerous leads from members of the public, we have not yet caught up with them," he said. Anyone with information on the Upsons' whereabouts should contact Det Con Sampson on 0845 60 60 365.