On day to remember heroes, a despicable villain is unmasked
Ex-Army conman stole £20,000 from widow
A DECADE after losing her soulmate to cancer, Ann Hargreaves tentatively embarked on a new relationship.
The Army widow was surprised to receive a message online from a man claiming to have served with her beloved late husband – and for the first time since his death she allowed herself to fall for someone new.
Over the next two years, romance blossomed between Mrs Hargreaves and former military policeman David Potts and he moved from Germany to Scotland to set up home with her.
But today – the centenary of the end of WWI – we can reveal that the trusting grandmother was the victim of a callous scam after Potts, 68, was convicted of defrauding her of her life savings.
Livingston Sheriff Court heard last week that Potts emptied the 78-year-old’s bank accounts of £20,000 after befriending her on an online social media group for war veterans and their families.
Last night a clearly upset Mrs Hargreaves said: ‘I was conned and feel both stupid and distraught. It is disgusting how he treated me. It’s so easy to trust people. He was a policeman. When you trust somebody you don’t sit there answering questions every day, you just get on with life.
‘My husband was so worried about me before he died and did all he could to ensure I would be secure in my retirement when he was gone. He set me up with pensions and savings accounts and then this man comes along and steals the lot.’
Mrs Hargreaves, who attended the court with her family to listen to the verdict, said she wanted to speak out to highlight to other women who might find themselves in her situation how easily she had been conned out of her savings by a man she trusted.
She added: ‘I was devastated when I found out all my savings had gone. I didn’t know what to do.
‘I lived in my bedroom for months afterwards. I hope he rots in Hell.
‘Now I’ve just got to put it behind me. It’s been a very depressing time.’
Mercedes-driving Potts, who now lives in a Cambridgeshire village, went on trial after denying obtaining more than £20,000 from Mrs Hargreaves’ bank account between May 2012 and September 2014.
After hearing five days of evidence, Sheriff Peter Hammond convicted him of fraud on Thursday.
Sheriff Hammond said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Mrs Hargreaves had been the victim of a ‘cynical and protracted fraud’ by Potts.
The court heard Potts was living in Germany with his disabled wife when he first made contact with Mrs Hargreaves online.
He told her he had served in the Royal Military Police – members of the regiment are popularly known as Redcaps because of the scarlet covers on their peaked caps – with her husband Peter, who died of cancer in 2002 aged 63.
Mrs Hargreaves sold her home in Argyll and agreed to set up home with Potts in a rented house in Whitburn, West Lothian.
Potts asked her to use the proceeds of the sale to back his plans to set up a business bringing German tourists over to Scotland for bespoke holidays, visiting scenic beauty spots.
She lent him £15,000 to start up the tourism enterprise, not realising that he was a callous fraudster out to steal all her savings.
He set up internet banking for her, allowing him to transfer money out of her account to pay his credit card bills and finance trips around the country.
She trusted him so much she even granted him power of attorney over her affairs, giving him access to the £500 a month pension her husband had set up for her. She only found out when her landlady arrived with an eviction notice because, unknown to her, Potts had not been paying the rent.
Sheriff Hammond said: ‘I accept the complainer’s evidence that she did not intend for the accused to have unlimited access to her finances for his own purposes, that she was genuinely shocked and distressed when she discovered she had no money left and that the accused had not even paid the rent for a period.
‘The accused attempted to portray Mrs Hargreaves as a “silly spendthrift” acting against his wise advice and he also referred to her as a “domineering woman”.
‘Neither of these conclusions could be in any way supported by listening to the complainer’s evidence and the evidence of those who knew her.’
He called for background reports and deferred sentence on Potts until next month. The accused, who had to surrender his passport to the court earlier because he was regarded as a ‘flight risk’, had his bail continued.
‘It is disgusting how he treated me’ ‘A cynical and protracted fraud by Potts’
BREACH OF TRUST: Conman David Potts. Right, Mrs Hargreaves with her husband’s service peaked cap ON DUTY: Peter Hargreaves serving with the Royal Military Police in Cyprus