A FAMILY of gardeners conned a vulnerable 89-year-old man out of thousands of pounds by claiming to have done work at his home, a court heard.
It is alleged that Robert Whitaker and his two nephews – John and James Whitaker – defrauded the pensioner of £6,400 by making him pay for work they had supposedly done in his Bassett back garden during December 2011.
Jurors at Southampton Crown Court heard how on six occasions the trio turned up, without having made any appointment, and would spend several hours at the bottom of the garden.
They would then drive the elderly man to a bank in Southampton city centre and make him withdraw large quantities of cash – on one occasion demanding he hand over £800, the prosecution claim.
The alleged fraud was only uncovered when staff at HSBC bank in the city became concerned about the man’s spending habits and alerted police and trading standards officers of their concerns.
Prosecutor Charles Gabb told the court: “Not an awful lot happens in a garden in December. They turned up six times [in a 26-day period in December] and conned him out of money on each and every occasion. They performed very little work of any value.”
He described the victim as a “vulnerable target that they could exploit and they did so repeatedly and callously”.
Mr Gabb said: “When the defendants went to his property it was never by appointment. He lives entirely on his own, being somewhat vulnerable you can imagine the pressure, they never came by appointment they just turned up.
“The defendants realised what a soft touch he was.”
Robert Whitaker, 47, formerly of Ennell Copse in North Baddesley, John Whitaker, 43, from Allen Grove, Romsey, and James Whitaker, 40, from Triangle Gardens in Nursling, all deny fraud.