The conman who came to stay in Kapiti
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?’’