A THIRD man has been jailed for conning an elderly dementia sufferer out of £73,500.
Francis Doherty was sent to join his brother Hughie and brother-in-law David Young behind bars for four and a half years this week for his role in their cruel plot.
The Doherty brothers, who are Irish Travellers from Northamptonshire, worked with Young to cheat an 84-year-old widow out of almost all of her life savings.
Posing as a solicitor, the trio persuaded her to leave cash at bus stops in Blunham, the Bedfordshire village where she lived.
The scam was only exposed when the victim’s bank manager became suspicious as the gang tried to extract £15,000 from her.
Bedfordshire Police told The Irish Post that the woman, who was living alone and battling the early stages of memory loss at the time, will never recover from the “shocking” ordeal.
“This was an elderly and vulnerable person and this has all had a lasting impact upon her,” said Detective Constable Phil Raikes, who led the sting operation that caught the thieves.
He added: “This has had a very detrimental effect on the victim insofar as these offences at the time they were committed actually brought on and if not they accelerated the early onset of dementia.
“Had the police not gotten involved and been informed, she could well have handed over all of her life savings.”
The trial heard that their “fragile” victim received phone calls from a man named “Oliver”, who spoke with a middle-class accent and said he was a solicitor.
He convinced the pensioner that he could help her retrieve £25,000 she lost when she fell victim to a separate scam.
“Oliver” also promised to retrieve the money she had handed over to “lawyers” after shoddy work was carried out on her driveway in 2004.
The victim was then told she would have to pay for legal services and was persuaded to cash in her life insurance policies.
Following a number of further calls, she took money out of her bank account on eight occasions and followed instructions from “Oliver” to leave it in envelopes near her home, handing over £73,500 between the summer of 2010 and February 2011.
Prosecutor David Stanton said none of the money had never been recovered.
“These despicable offences were a planned operation by three defendants who took advantage of an 84 year old woman who was suffering from dementia,” he told Luton Crown Court.
“She didn't confide in her family or say what was going on. No legal work was being carried out for her. She was being taken for the money. All the money was stolen from her.”
Bedfordshire Police were informed of the scam when a manager at a NatWest branch in Bedford became suspicious.
After inspecting the vulnerable woman’s account, he discovered the large withdrawals that had been made and called her son, who alerted the police.
“Oliver” called the victim again a few days later, in March 2011, and told her to withdraw £15,000.
As police set up a trap outside her home, a green Landrover Discovery was twice seen driving slowly past the woman’s house.
It was then involved in a short police chase before stopping, at which point the trio were found in the car along with Young’s dismantled mobile phone.
The court was told that a police sniffer dog following the chase route led officers to three pieces of paper by the roadside, one of which had the victim’s name and phone number written on it.
Further analysis revealed fingerprints from Young and Francis Doherty on the paper and showed that Young’s phone had been used to make 13 calls to the woman’s home that day.
Francis Doherty, 36, of Gipsy Lane, Irchester, Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, and Hughie Doherty, 31, of Newton Road, Rushden, pleaded not guilty to theft.
The brothers also denied a second charge of attempting to steal £15,000 from their victim on the day of their arrest.
But they were convicted of both crimes at Luton Crown Court at an earlier hearing.
Young, 31, of Arrington in Cambridgeshire, had pleaded guilty to the offences and was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail at the initial sentencing in March.
Father-of-six Hughie Doherty, who was in breach of a 12-month sentence suspended for two years after he tried to extract £7,000 from a 72-year-old man, was jailed for five years.
Francis Doherty, whose sentencing was delayed because his barrister was not present at the previous hearing, was jailed this week for four-and-a-half years.
His barrister told the court that he was held in high standing in the community, had built up the largest collection of Gypsy Cob horses in the south of England.
He added that the older Doherty brother had no previous convictions for fraud.
At the initial sentencing, Judge Stuart Bridge described the effect of the trio’s crimes on the victim was “appalling” and said she would never recover.
“The fragile mental state of the victim was perfectly apparent. It was an audacious fraud, carefully planned and callously executed,” he added.
“You realised she was easy prey. You were insatiable and carried on taking, taking and taking.”