The con­man who came to stay in Kapiti

Kapiti Observer - - FRONT PAGE - JOEL MAXWELL

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, found out re­cently 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, on a Sun­day, he was help­ing an el­derly wo­man across the road. By Mon­day night he had talked his way into her home.

He told her his apart­ment in Karori 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 – claim­ing his were soaked in the flood – 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.

Then, when she was away in Auck­land 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’’.

Hard­ing told her he was madly in love with her, and wanted to get mar­ried. He tried to con­vince her to say she loved him back.

At the end of Jan­uary, she told him she was start­ing to doubt him, af­ter the lies started to fall apart. The next morn­ing, he van­ished while she was out tak­ing a walk.

Hard­ing, still us­ing the name John Gra­ham, an­swered his cell­phone to Stuff, and said he hadn’t been stay­ing in Kapiti but 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?’’

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