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VIDEO: Great-gran speaks out as conman appears in court

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  • by Rob Devey
 

A great-grandmother targeted by a despicable thief masquerading as an honest odd-job man today warned other pensioners not to open their doors to cold callers.

Iris Hobson, 87, said cruel William James needed to be locked up after he distracted her and helped himself to her pension.

The former cotton weaver had no idea James had been convicted of a similiar offence when she let him into her Blackpool home.

She trusted him because he had previously done work on apple trees in her garden – a mistake she says will never happen again.

“I can’t begin to tell you what I think of him,” said the great-grandma-of-two, “he needs locking up for a good few months.”

Mrs Hobson, of Worcester Road, added: “He said a water main had burst up the road and he had called round to check my water. He told me ‘you check the taps upstairs and I’ll check downstairs’.

“When I came downstairs I noticed he had closed the living room door and he said he had just been in and switched off the TV, which I thought was a bit funny.

“I gave him my silver pen, which my daughter Angela had given me as a present on her silver wedding anniversary, to write down his number.

“When he was gone, I realised he had taken my pension – £200 – from the living room and he had also taken my pen.

“I just thought ‘stupid me’ but I trusted him because he had been round before and he was very friendly and well-presented.”

This was not the first time James, 39, of Ilkley Grove, Cleveleys, had targeted a “vulnerable” pensioner in their own home.

Detectives said James had previously conned an 83-year-old woman with dementia out of £300 and £350 on two separate occasions in 2010.

He had falsely claimed he had cleaned drains and done other repairs at her house on Wolsey Close, Cleveleys.

Police think there could be other victims and are urging anyone who fears they may have been targeted by James to come forward.

Det Sgt Steve Hallam, of Blackpool CID, said: “This is a horrible crime and the lady (Mrs Hobson) was clearly upset by what happened.

“James has again targeted a elderly woman and we think it’s possible there could be others out there who have not come forward.

“These are vulnerable people who have trusted James to come into their homes to do work, only for him to abuse that trust in the most disgraceful way.

“We hope he will receive a heavy prison sentence and would ask anyone else who believes they may have been targeted by him to get in touch.”

Mrs Hobson said she felt it would be impossible for her to trust a door-to-door odd jobs man again.

She said: “It’s awful what he has done to me and at least one other elderly person and I don’t think you can change people like that.

“If he’s done this before, he will do it again.

“I’m a Jehovah’s Witness and we are inclined to try and trust people, but you can’t trust people like him.”

James was caught after Mrs Hobson handed police a receipt he had given her for previous work bearing his phone number and fingerprints.

She also picked him out from a video ID parade at the police station.

Appearing at Preston Crown Court, James admitted theft.

He denied a charge of burglary which was later dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service.

Mrs Hobson, added: “I would advise elderly people to keep their chain on the door and not let anyone in – I now use tradespeople from the council’s approved care and repair list for odd jobs.”

James was still on a 18-month suspended prison sentence for the earlier offence in Cleveleys at the time he targeted Mrs Hobson.

Philip Andrews, defending, told the crown court James had complied with a previous supervision order and a Thinking Skills programme.

But Judge Simon Newell warned him that custody was ‘almost inevitable’.

James will be sentenced on February 27 after a probation report is compiled.

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