Con­man on the run from po­lice


A 77-year-old con­man on the run from po­lice since Au­gust has spent much of the past two months in sub­ur­ban Para­pa­raumu af­ter charm­ing his way into a widow’s home.

The woman, 73, who did not want to be named, only found out on Wed­nes­day that Wil­liam Hard­ing was wanted by po­lice, and said the news made her feel sick.

He had been liv­ing in her home since mid-De­cem­ber, af­ter she met him at a bus stop in Karori, Welling­ton.

When she first saw him, he was help­ing an el­derly woman across the road. By Mon­day night he had talked his way into her home.

He told her his Karori apart­ment had been flooded by a bro­ken hot wa­ter cylin­der. He was be­ing paid $160 a night by his in­surer for ac­com­mo­da­tion, and he would pay this to her for four nights.

In the end he stayed for six weeks – forced out af­ter he was buried by the weight of his ex­tra­or­di­nary ly­ing.

Dur­ing his stay, he ate her food, wore her son’s clothes and promised to re­paint the gold edg­ing on her hus­band’s grave­stone.

He never paid her any money, while she reck­ons she paid out thou­sands of dol­lars dur­ing their time to­gether.

In Jan­uary, he told her he had been di­ag­nosed with lung can­cer.

He said he had in­cluded her in his will, had chil­dren in Aus­tralia and Bri­tain, was buy­ing a car, and had booked flights to Syd­ney for a hol­i­day to­gether. None of it ap­peared to be true.

The woman said Hard­ing – he told her he was called John Gra­ham – was an in­cred­i­bly plau­si­ble liar, and ‘‘al­ways had a quick, smart an­swer’’.

At the end of Jan­uary, she told him she was start­ing to doubt him and the next morn­ing, he van­ished while she was out tak­ing a walk.

She and a friend went to the Karori apart­ments where he said he lived – and found he had pre­vi­ously talked his way into one of the res­i­dents’ apart­ments.

Hard­ing, still us­ing the name John Gra­ham, an­swered his cell­phone to Stuff on Wed­nes­day, and said he was cur­rently in Lower Hutt.

He had ‘‘not re­ally’’ been on the run from po­lice. ‘‘I don’t think that’s true, mate, is it?

‘‘You might have the wrong guy, I think, mate.’’

He de­nied be­ing Wil­liam Hard­ing and said, regarding the flooded apart­ment story, that he had ‘‘never said any­thing like that, mate’’. He then hung up.

The Para­pa­raumu woman con­firmed it was Hard­ing’s voice, though his tone was rougher than when he used to sing songs to her and try to charm her.

Sergeant Nick Brunger, of Whanganui, said Hard­ing was wanted af­ter fail­ing to ap­pear in Whanganui Dis­trict Court on charges for ob­tain­ing by de­cep­tion and caus­ing loss by de­cep­tion, from el­derly fe­male vic­tims.

He pre­vi­ously pleaded not guilty to the charges.

It was re­ported on Sun­day that he had holed up with an­other cou­ple in Welling­ton in De­cem­ber, again us­ing the story that his house had been dam­aged in the quake.

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