‘Bogus workman’ stole Nelson family’s life savings

Burnley Crown Court.''
Burnley Crown Court.''

A “BOGUS workman” who stole the £4,000 life savings off a Nelson pensioner and her son has been jailed for nine months.

Terry Lawrence, then a drug addict, had demanded cash from Martin Loughlin, who was said to have felt so intimidated, he handed over his nest egg of £2,000 in October, 2011. The defendant then followed Mr Loughlin’s 82-year-old mother Patricia upstairs, grabbed £2,000 in a paper bag and made a swift exit. Lawrence had done small gardening jobs at the Loughlins’ home but they would not have cost anything like £4,000, Burnley Crown Court heard.

The hearing was told Lawrence has a number of aliases, is a convicted fraudster and was locked up for offences when he pretended to be a police officer. He was already back behind bars on licence recall from the two-year sentence, imposed last March, when he was handed his latest sentence.

The defendant had been rumbled last year over the thieving when a police officer doing work with the prison service saw his photo and recognised him from CCTV footage Mr Loughlin had said showed the culprit.

Lawrence, a father-to-be and engaged to be married, is said by his barrister to now be a changed man. The defendant (23), living in Nelson at the time of the offence but now of Wolfenden Street, Bolton, admitted two charges of theft.

Prosecutor Miss Sarah Statham said Mrs Loughlin and her son lived together in Nelson. The defendant attended their home in September, 2011, calling himself Martin, with an older, Irish man, who he said was his father and a younger male. The men asked the victims if they wanted any gardening work done and, at first, a “relatively reasonable” price was agreed. Some work was carried out – some tidying was done and chippings laid, but it did not take a great deal of time.

On October 1st, the defendant and the man he said was his father returned and he demanded £4,000. Mr Loughlin could not believe that sum and his mother laughed. Mr Loughlin would say the defendant became quite forceful wanting the cash and, because of Lawrence’s demeanour in the house, Mr Loughlin decided to hand over some money. He thought the defendant would involve the police if he did not. He gave Lawrence £2,000 – his entire life savings.

Miss Statham said Mrs Loughlin then went upstairs where she kept £2,000 – also her life savings – in a paper bag in a wardrobe. She took the bag out. Lawrence had followed her up, took it and he and the other men quickly left. Police were called and, several days later, Mr Loughlin saw the defendant drinking outside a local pub. CCTV footage was obtained, the police looked at it, but it was not until 2012, when the officer spotted his photo in prison, that he was connected with the thefts. The defendant was arrested last July and made no comment. Mr Loughlin picked him out on a video identification parade. The prosecutor added: “Clearly, none of this money has ever been recovered.”

Defending Lawrence, Miss Bernice Campbell said he had been to custody, got drug-free and came out a better person. The barrister said what he had done was “horrendous” but added: “He’s a different person than the person that did that act a year-and-a-half ago.”

Sentencing, Judge Andrew Woolman told Lawrence the offences were deeply unpleasant. He continued: “It really is a very mean offence indeed and must make the victims feel extremely angry and upset, losing their life savings.”

Judge Woolman added it may well be that time in prison had cured him of his drug addiction, but these offences had now caught up with him. The judge said: “I would not be doing my public duty if I were not to mark these offences by an immediate custodial sentence.”