A GREAT-grandmother has told how she believes she fell victim to serial conman James Hayes.
Iris Wilkinson, 61, said she handed over £105, which she was keeping to pay gas and electric bills, to the fraudster who preyed on her generosity after knocking on her door and asking for help.
The police initially dismissed the report but confirmed they will re-examine the case following Hayes’ court appearance last week.
Hayes, 39, of Ilchester Street, Seaham, was sentenced to 36 weeks in prison, suspended for two years, after admitting six offences of fraud.
The court heard the smooth-talking conman asked to borrow money, saying he needed to travel to see his wife or girlfriend in Sunderland, Washington or South Shields – depending where he was.
But he would pocket the cash and use it to buy booze.
Mrs Wilkinson, of Queen Alexandra Road, Grangetown, said she was targeted by Hayes, 39, on June 2 last year when he knocked on her door and asked to speak to her husband, Ralph, 60.
The retired cleaner said: “He asked to speak to Ralph and when I told him he wasn’t in he told me he had a dilemma and that his wife was in London and had gone into labour and he needed to get to her.
“He said he knew my husband and was hoping to ask him for a lift down to London or to borrow £150 to get there.”
Ralph, who runs a double glazing repair company, had left his car parked on the drive which had his name and mobile number printed on the side of it.
Mrs Wilkinson said: “I told him that Ralph wasn’t in but then he said he’d ring him and pulled out his mobile, he must have seen the number on the side of Ralph’s car.
“I stood and listened while he was on the phone to my husband who told the man that he didn’t know him but he was persistent. He told my husband that he did know him as he only lived round the corner on Victoria Avenue.
“That went back and forward for a while but then when he came off the phone he just kept saying that he needed to get to London now and he really needed £150 which he would pay back the next week.”
Mrs Wilkison then gave Hayes £105 that she had kept in order to pay her gas and electricity bills.
Mrs Wilkinson said Hayes thanked her, and told her he would pay her back in a week’s time - with extra money on top to thank her for her kindness.
When the couple had not seen Hayes after one week had passed, they rang the number the conman had used to call Ralph’s mobile.
Mrs Wilkinson said: “He answered and apologised straight away saying that he was still stuck in London but he would be home soon and pay the money back.
“But when another week went by we called the police. They came to see us but said that they couldn’t do anything because I handed my money over willingly - but I feel I was conned out of it.
“All they did was call the number we had for him and leave a voicemail saying that he had to give me the money back.
“He even rang the police back and told them he’d give me the money, but I’ve never seen him since. I didn’t hear anything else about it until I read about him in the paper.”
A spokeswoman for Sunderland Police said: “On the information given to officers on June 2, there appears to be no evidence of dishonesty.
“However, following further investigation and the outcome in court, we will carry out further enquiries in order to establish if any additional action is required.”