Two men who posed as NHS and Age Concern charity workers – in order to burgle elderly people's homes – have each been jailed for six years.
Miles Connors, 46, of Reading, and Thomas Reynolds, 32, of Slough, admitted targeting three homes in Bristol back in July last year.
During their sentencing at Bristol Crown Court on Friday (28 April), Judge Hart described the offences as "despicable, predatory, heartless and cowardly".
A director of Age UK, which replaced the now defunct Age Concern, also described the crimes as "particularly despicable".
Police say the pair first targeted the home of a 75-year-old woman in Fishponds, who let them in after they claimed to be from "Age Concern and the NHS". They left empty-handed when she became suspicious.
A second incident in Kingswood saw one of the men again claim to be from Age Concern and walk into the home of a 92-year-old woman. She was on the phone to her son at the time, and he left without taking anything.
Finally, the pair targeted an 80-year-old woman in Kingswood, with one saying he was from Age Concern. The lady tried to turn him away but he changed his story and claimed to be from the council, prompting her to open the door.
She heard a second man speak but did not see him, police said. The victim and her husband were persuaded to walk upstairs to see if they had mobility problems and would need a stair lift. When the men left they found that cash had been taken from a handbag.
In November 2016, following a lengthy investigation involving a number of other police forces, Reynolds was arrested in Wiltshire and Connors was arrested in Berkshire.
The charities Age Concern and Help the Aged merged in 2009 and the new organisation was renamed Age UK in 2010.
Always ask for ID cards
Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: "It is horrible to think that anybody could target vulnerable older people in this way. Posing as someone from a charity is particularly despicable.
"Criminals who target vulnerable older people are calculating thieves and can be very convincing. We would urge all older people not to open their door to someone unless they are absolutely sure of their identity. If you're suspicious or the caller won't leave, call 999 and ask for the police.
"If someone is specifically concerned about the credentials of someone who claims to be from Age UK or one of our founding charities – Age Concern and Help the Aged – then we would also urge them to contact our free advice line for further advice on 0800 169 65 65 or download our free guide Staying Safe.
"All collectors for Age UK shops are required to carry Age UK ID-cards and present them if requested."
Connors and Reynolds pleaded guilty to three burglary offences and were each jailed for six years.
The pair were also issued with Criminal Behaviour Orders, which will come into effect on their release from prison. The 10-year orders include conditions which bar both men from visiting South Gloucestershire and "cold calling" door-to-door.
Reynolds also asked the court to take into consideration three similar burglaries in Berkshire in July and August 2016 and three fraud offences.
Investigating officer Dai Nicholas said: "This was a long and complex investigation, involving colleagues from several other forces, into criminals who were clearly prepared to travel to commit their offences.
"I would like to reassure people that we take offences against vulnerable elderly people very seriously and will continue to share information with other police forces in order to bring these criminals to justice."
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