Rogue trader Henry Douglas gets 15 months in jail
A rogue trader who fleeced customers after promising he could fix their electrical appliances has been jailed for 15 months.
Henry Douglas was branded a determined conman who cynically exploited his victims' difficulties to his advantage.
The serial crook, who didn't bother turning up for two sentencing hearings last month, finally faced justice when he appeared at Belfast Crown Court yesterday. He had been arrested by police last Sunday.
Douglas (52), of Flush Park in Lisburn, admitted 11 counts of fraud, one charge of theft and one of obstructing a police officer.
Prosecuting lawyer James Brady said Douglas placed advertisements offering to fix people's appliances, including cookers and dishwashers. He would ask for money for spare parts and then disappear.
In one case he removed the circuit board from a dishwasher he was supposed to be repairing.
After taking £50 from the customer, he promised to come back – but never returned.
When the customer contacted Douglas, he was given a string of excuses.
A properly qualified expert later examined Douglas's handiwork and described it as the worst he had ever seen.
In another case, he made off with a customer's oven door.
The court heard Douglas, who received a suspended sentence for similar rogue trading, was back fleecing customers barely a month after he avoided a jail term in June 2012.
Using various guises, he targeted victims in Belfast, Holywood, Bangor and Newtownabbey, stealing small amounts of cash ranging from £20 to £50. His total fraud amounted to £515.
Defence lawyer Peter Coiley said his client's guilty pleas indicated his contrition and remorse.
He said Douglas led a lonely and isolated existence and struggled with alcohol abuse.
Judge Allistair Devlin said Douglas had shown no remorse for his actions. "You are little less than a determined conman and confidence fraudster," he said.
He told Douglas that in addition to the nine months he would serve in prison for his catalogue of deception, thieving and obstructing police, he would also serve a previously suspended six-month sentence.
After 15 months in jail, he will serve a further nine months under supervised licensed parole.
Even as he dodged police and the courts, he was still offering to fix broken cookers
He couldn't mend broken appliances and he couldn't mend his ways... Adrian Rutherford hears how Dodgy Douglas left his clients in the lurch.
Henry Douglas has made a career out of exploiting other people's misfortune – and not even a looming court appearance could change his ways.
Far from showing remorse, the shameless fraudster was still at his old tricks right up until he was arrested by police 10 days ago.
Branded a determined and deceitful conman by a judge, the crook has a list of convictions more than long enough to justify the description.
He has conned dozens of unsuspecting customers down the years – with his deceit following an all too familiar pattern.
Advertising himself as an electrical engineer, although he has no such qualification, Douglas would visit people's homes, dismantling their cookers, washing machines or dishwashers before disappearing with their cash.
Several of Douglas's victims came forward with horror stories about how he meddled with their appliances after he featured in the pages of this newspaper last month.
One described how Douglas left a cooker in pieces and another told how he tried to fix a dishwasher using soap granules.
One woman said she had been deceived by Douglas as recently as March.
"I had problems with my fan-assisted oven, but as it turned out, there was nothing wrong with it – I was just turning it up too high," she said.
"I flicked through the Yellow Pages, phoned him up and he came out a few days afterwards.
"He opened up the cooker, took a few things out, and said I needed a new element.
"I gave him £50 for parts and labour and he promised to be back at 5pm. I waited and waited but he never came back."
Incredibly, Dodgy Douglas tried to convince the woman he was a professional.
"He took my cooker apart and then, when he was going, he turned around and told me not to try to put it back together again," she added.
"He told me it was too dangerous and to leave it to a professional like him.
"He's a complete conman – and he's very good at it."
Douglas's deceiving ways followed a familiar pattern. He used a variety of aliases and mobile numbers to stay one step ahead of short-changed customers. Another victim contacted this newspaper to tell how Douglas made a bizarre attempt to fix their dishwasher in February.
"I had a dishwasher problem and he said it was the outlet which was causing it," he said.
"He went out to his car, brought in a box of soap granules, put them in with hot water and put the machine on a full cycle.
"He was in the house for five minutes and charged us £30.
"Obviously it didn't work – and he never came back."
Indeed, the only thing that Dodgy Douglas is worse at mending than appliances is his ways. When he appeared in court in June 2012 for charging customers for work on domestic appliances which was never done, he was given a second chance after his six-month prison sentence was suspended.
Yet Douglas did not learn his lesson, and less than a month later he was back up to his old tricks – conning more people out of their cash.
Not even Douglas's latest court appearance could change his ways.
Earlier this year he pleaded guilty to 11 counts of false representation and a further count of theft.
He was supposed to be sentenced on April 14, but didn't bother turning up to court.
The same thing happened 11 days later, on April 25, when Douglas was again AWOL when he should have been in court.
Yesterday Douglas's barrister told the court that he was contrite and remorseful.
However, we can reveal that Douglas is in fact far from remorseful – and was still conning people up until the law caught up with him last Sunday.
We know of one customer who contacted Douglas two weeks ago, when he was on the run from justice, complaining that his cooker was malfunctioning.
However, rather than confess that he was a conman – and admit that he shouldn't be allowed anywhere near the cooker – Douglas shamelessly promised to fix the appliance.
On May 10, just 24 hours before he was arrested, Douglas was still making promises to fix the cooker.
However, as he begins a 15- month prison sentence, consumers can rest more easily knowing Douglas won't be going anywhere near their appliances for some time to come.
Douglas is believed to have used the following trading names in the course of his fradulent activities:
A1 Appliances; Master Care Dishwasher Repair and Servicing; EE Supplies; Rest Easy; Windmill Telecom; Windmill Appliances; Invomo Ltd; Cameras R Me; Douglas Electrics; 365 Supersparks; Calabar Electrics; Gordon Douglas Appliance Repairs; Domestic Appliance Repairs; Cooker Guy; Lagan Electrics; First Class Glass and Dishwasher; Don't Dump It, Repair It; Harry the Dishwasher Man.