‘Despicable’ crook scammed 94-year-old out of £360

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A 94-year-old St Helens pensioner was scammed out of £360 by a bogus council official.

The fraudster - who claimed to be working for St Helens Council - told the elderly victim that a tree at the back of her property needed to felled or she would be in breach of environmental rules and face a £3,500 fine.

She agreed to the work but after the man left the victim’s daughter became suspicious and called the council, who confirmed the ‘workman’ was not employed by them.

The incident took place on Wednesday, February 24, on Brunswick Street, Parr.

The man is described as white, aged in his 40s, with short dark brown hair, a medium build and a St Helens accent.

He was wearing a navy blue fleece and navy blue bottoms.

The lorry he was driving is described as blue, with trees on the back and wire mesh around to give the appearance of a cage.

Insp Andy Johnston, of St Helens police, said: “This was a despicable offence against an elderly lady.

“It's hard to believe that anyone will stoop so low as to try and defraud elderly people out of money for work that is not required.

“Offenders like this deliberately target the most vulnerable in our community in their own homes, a place where they have a right to feel safe and secure, and we are actively working to identify the person involved in this incident so they can be brought to justice.

“I would also appeal to people to keep an eye on any elderly and vulnerable neighbours and family members. If you notice anyone suspicious in the area, always call the police or contact your local neighbourhood policing team for more advice.”

Council chiefs have warned residents to be extra cautious about doorstep callers, particularly those claiming to be working for the authority.

Coun Seve Gomez-Aspron, cabinet member for Green, Smart and Sustainable Borough, said: “It’s awful to know that the vulnerable members of our community can be taken advantage of in this way, but it can happen to anyone.

“We urge residents to be mindful of people who may be posing as figures of authority and always ask for identification.

“In circumstances like this, there is a formal written process which our Grounds Maintenance team adheres to when removing trees from private properties, unless there is an obvious immediate risk to the highway from a hazardous tree.

“Council officers will never be forceful, and there are no fines that they would threaten.

“Residents can call Mike Roberts, our Trees and Woodland Officer on 01744 676221 for advice, or consult a qualified tree surgeon, of which there are a number on our Trader Register, at www.sthelens.gov.uk/traderregister.”

Witnesses should call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.