The great-grandparents, who are both aged in their 80s and in poor health, were left upset and afraid after being targeted by the fraudster – but things began looking up for the couple after they got in touch with Hertfordshire Trading Standards.
As well as launching an investigation to bring the cowboy builder to justice, officers enlisted the help of Taylor Wimpey, along with Oaklands College and other local organisations, to ensure the work he falsely promised to complete could be finished.
With work on building the wall now under way, the husband confessed he was overwhelmed by the generosity of those who stepped in to help.
“I can’t express how happy this kind gesture has made us. It’s a marvellous thing,” said the 80-year-old.
“We were taken in by a nasty, deceitful man who deprived us of our savings and made life miserable for me, my wife and my whole family.
“I have worked hard all my life, so for someone to come along and take what little we had hurt us very much. But we have been rescued by good people and it’s wonderful to know there are people out there who are willing to help those in need.”
It was summer 2009 when the fraudster targeted the retired tailor-cutter and his 82-year-old wife, who have been married for 59 years and have two daughters, five grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.
The man offered his services after learning that they were no longer able to maintain the hedge at the front of their ex-council home and wanted to replace it with a wall.
The husband was suspicious about the man’s over-enthusiastic manner, but was nonetheless persuaded to pay him £800 up front for materials. Despite removing the hedge and beginning the work, the rogue builder promptly vanished as soon as he had pocketed the cash, leaving the wall unbuilt.
“I tried to contact him but heard nothing,” his victim said. “Eventually I tracked him down at a rented office and asked him what was happening, but he was very aggressive and threatening towards me.
“I never saw him again but my wife and I were both very frightened by this stage – we thought he might hurt us. Now we can only hope he’ll be caught and brought to justice.”
The case was reported to police and Trading Standards and an investigation is currently under way. Taylor Wimpey, which is currently building a new homes development off Highfield Lane, St Albans, stepped in after being approached by trading standards officers for assistance.
Paul Jackson, Production Manager for Taylor Wimpey, said: “As soon as we heard about the terrible way in which this vulnerable elderly couple had been treated, we knew we had to do something to help.
“We are only too pleased to provide a gift of 2,000 bricks so the wall can be completed and we hope that this will go some way towards repairing the damage which has been done.”
Keith Emsall, Leader of Hertfordshire County Council, praised the community-spirited actions of Taylor Wimpey, as well as the authority’s Trading Standards officers, Oaklands College and other businesses who have helped out by providing discounted additional materials and skip hire.
He said: “I was delighted to hear that so many local organisations were willing to help this couple and very proud of the extra work done by trading standards to bring this about.”
Hertfordshire Trading Standards operates a Trustmark Scheme of approved traders and contractors to safeguard the interests of consumers. For more information, visit hertscc.trustmark.org.uk.