Belfast Telegraph

PSNI refused to investigate builder who allegedly conned pensioner out of hundreds of pounds

Police are now investigating the incident
Police are now investigating the incident

A Northern Ireland woman has spoken out after a builder allegedly conned her elderly mother out of hundreds of pounds and police said it "was not their job" to investigate.

The ordeal began in March when Stephanie's mother, Moria, who is registered blind, was held at knifepoint during an aggravated burglary at her home.

Police advised her to have her front and back doors replaced. When workers arrived to do the job, one of the door fitters told Stephanie he could replace the PVC guttering and window sills of her house at a discounted price.

She accepted the offer and put down a £140 deposit for the work, which was due to begin in the following days.

She was later told the job would have to be delayed as the contractor had suffered a bereavement. Due to taking time off, he said he didn't have enough money for the materials to complete Stephanie's work and asked her to transfer him £200 to be able to do so.

He said he would be arriving to start the work the following morning, however he didn't show up.

The days came and went with no sign of the contractor. When she repeatedly tried to contacted him Stephanie received no reply, so she reported the incident to the PSNI and went to her local station to give a formal statement.

Speaking to BBC Radio Ulster's Nolan Show, Stephanie said: "I brought all the evidence with me, the receipt he gave me and I printed off all the communications I had with him through text... I was told there was nothing [the police] could do, it was a civil matter.

"They said the wouldn't even run a search on this person because they weren't dealing with it and they have to have a reason to run a search.

"It made me feel let down because I had all the evidence which I gave them and I had nowhere to turn to. I was just given a leaflet and told to contact the Citizens' Advice Bureau."

In the presence of a PSNI officer while at the station, Stephanie again tried to call the contractor, however this time he answered his phone.

He told her he was hospital after attempting to take his own life and Stephanie said that, while she sympathised, she wanted her money back.

"I said I want my money back, because you have taken my money, you haven't turned up to do a job and you haven't been in any contact to say why you haven't turned up," she said.

The contractor said he would get his partner to transfer the money the following Tuesday, however when contacted that day Stephanie was told that the 14-day refund period had passed and the contractor would have to do work before she would get her money.

Following the Nolan Show's intervention, the PSNI reversed their decision and said the incident would now be investigated as a criminal matter.

"Following a review of the circumstances of this incident, specialist detectives from the PSNI Economic Crime Unit have now commenced a criminal investigation," a PSNI spokesperson said.

"We will also conduct a review of the incident and, where there is any learning to be gained from the incident, this will be reflected upon and will be adopted as we continue to do our job protecting the community."

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