Cal­lous pair fleeced lonely

Daily Express - - For Brexit - By David Pilditch

A COU­PLE who be­friended el­derly vic­tims be­fore fleec­ing them of al­most all their wealth were branded “cal­lous and cowardly” as they were jailed yesterday.

Twisted Christo­pher Barnes, 42, and partner Lucy Palmer, 35, stood to pocket a stag­ger­ing £635,000 af­ter tar­get­ing frail and vul­ner­a­ble pen­sion­ers in a so­phis­ti­cated twoyear scam.

They ma­nip­u­lated the emo­tions of lonely vic­tims by strik­ing up friend­ships, with mother-of-five Palmer tak­ing on the role of carer.

The cou­ple, who have now sep­a­rated, even re­cruited their chil­dren to act as sur­ro­gate fam­i­lies for some of their five vic­tims – two of whom have since died.

Barnes, of Til­bury, Es­sex, launched his crim­i­nal en­ter­prise just a month af­ter be­ing re­leased from jail in Septem­ber 2014.

He had been con­victed of fleec­ing two vul­ner­a­ble pen­sion­ers out of £150,000.

Tar­geted

The court heard Barnes pre­sented him­self to vic­tims as a “sub­stan­tial and re­spectable” gar­dener and builder – of­ten telling them ur­gent struc­tural work was needed.

Barnes “grossly over­charged” for the un­nec­es­sary work be­fore be­friend­ing vic­tims and go­ing on to empty their bank ac­counts.

Prose­cu­tor An­war Nashashibi told Chelms­ford Crown Court in Es­sex: “Mr Barnes played the lead­ing role in this con­spir­acy. He de­vised the strate­gies that were used on each vic­tim. Mr Barnes is a man who is ca­pa­ble of be­ing very charm­ing and con­vinc­ing.

“He tar­geted el­derly peo­ple be­cause they are of­ten lonely, anx­ious for af­fec­tion and will­ing to trust. He formed per­sonal re­la­tions with his vic­tims. He used these re­la­tion­ships to ob­tain more prop­erty from vic­tims in a num­ber of ways.

“In do­ing so he ex­ploited their emo­tional vul­ner­a­bil­ity and told them nu­mer­ous lies.”

One vic­tim he be­friended Veron­ica Mills, 79.

Af­ter win­ning her con­fi­dence, he brought in Palmer, who would take Mrs Mills out for lunch and on shop­ping trips.

The cou­ple called her Nan, told was Vic­tim Wil­liam Clark be­fore the fraud, above, and later af­ter he got cancer and re­fused treat­ment

her that they loved her and bought her gifts, the court heard.

They ap­peared to be­come so close that Mrs Mills’ re­la­tion­ship with her son broke down and he moved out of the prop­erty.

Barnes then per­suaded Mrs Mills to trans­fer her £185,000 home in Clac­ton, Es­sex, to him and change her will – cut­ting out her son.

She was later held in a car­a­van where she was not al­lowed to make con­tact with her fam­ily af­ter the cou­ple moved into her bun­ga­low.

Her nephew dis­cov­ered she was miss­ing af­ter vis­it­ing her home – and claims he was con­fronted by Barnes bran­dish­ing a hand­gun.

An­other vic­tim was Vic­tor Bor­ley, 74. He had been des­per­ately ill and has since died.

He agreed to ap­ply for his pen­sion to be con­verted into a lump sum of £117,000 to hand to Barnes af­ter his bank ac­counts had been emp­tied.

Ju­rors were shown haunt­ing video ev­i­dence fea­tur­ing Mr Bor­ley and vul­ner­a­ble wid­ower Wil­liam Clark, 85, who has also died af­ter get­ting cancer.

Mr Clark, was ap­proached by Barnes soon af­ter the con­man’s re­lease from prison.

The fraud­ster then brought in Palmer to cook and clean for him and charged Mr Clark £105,000 for cladding his house and re­plac­ing his lawn with as­tro­turf.

An­other cou­ple, Damien Sal­ter, 30, and mother-of-eight Sa­man­tha Rogers, 38, went on to de­fraud Mr Clark of £38,000 af­ter Barnes and Palmer sud­denly van­ished.

Yesterday Judge Jonathan Seely branded Barnes a “dis­grace­ful amoral fraud­ster” who cyn­i­cally tar­geted “the most vul­ner­a­ble

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