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.