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Jail for smooth talking crook who preyed on OAPs
3:12pm Sunday 22nd April 2012 in News
A smooth talking crook targetted trusting pensioners during a crime spree.
With his eloquent social skills, Mark Rhodes talked his way into pensioners’ homes, saying he needed to use the phone because his car had broken down.
When their backs were turned, he rifled through their possessions and stole what he could, leaving his victims traumatised.
One widow told police she no longer trusted anyone and felt a prisoner in her home after falling victim to Rhodes.
The habitual offender, who was out of jail on licence from a five-year term for other distraction burglaries, struck at homes in Hampshire, across the south of England and in the Midlands before handing himself in to the police.
Now justice has caught up with the 27- year-old, who was jailed at Southampton Crown Court for six years after admitting two counts of burglary and one of theft.
He also asked for another 19 burglaries and two frauds to be considered.
“These were mean and despicable crimes,” said Judge Peter Henry, who heard that his victims were aged between 70 and 90.
“You deliberately targeted elderly and vulnerable people. There was sophisticated planning and execution. You are a professional distraction burglar.”
Prosecutor Unyime Davies told the court how the smartly dressed Rhodes was standing in the driveway of a 73- year-old widow when she returned to her Lymington home. They chatted before he persuaded her to let him in on the pretext of using her phone.
While she went to make a cup of tea, he plundered her purse of coins. It was not until he had left that she realised she had been tricked.
“I feel stupid I have been conned,” she told detectives. “I am worried it might happen again and I no longer feel safe in my own home. I don’t know how this man can live with himself for doing that to an old woman. How can he look at himself in the mirror?”
Rhodes, of no fixed address, also went to the Totton home of an 88-year-old widow with mental health difficulties, stepping through her doorway after she had answered a knock on the door.
He told her he had broken down and needed to use the Yellow Pages to get help. Again, it was not until after he had left that she realised she had been conned and about £50 in cash had been taken from her purse.
Mr Davies said Rhodes also stole between £110 and £120 from the United Reformed Church in Basingstoke after telling the honorary treasurer the church could help him find accommodation.
They looked on the Internet but when the treasurer went to make himself a cup of tea, he took the cash from a collection bag.
The judge heard that in June 2009, Rhodes had been jailed at Gloucester Crown Court for five years for 79 offences and was on licence at the time he returned to his old ways.
Angus Robertson, defending said his best mitigation was that he had handed himself in and apologised to his victims.