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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

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Woman, 88, conned out of home by man she saw 'as her son', Carlisle court told

An 88-year-old woman was fleeced out of her house and savings by the man she saw as “just like a son”.

The Royal British Legion and charity Shelter had to help Doreen Lugsden regain ownership after the man who acted as her “friend and financial adviser” sold her home in Arlecdon from under her, leaving her a mere tenant, Carlisle Crown Court heard.

Trevor Gordon, 51, who had known her for about 40 years, went on to “plunder” nearly £22,000 from her bank accounts, it was alleged.

Doreen Lugsden was too frail to give evidence in court because of health problems.

But prosecuting counsel Tim Evans told the jury that evidence would be called to show that for about four years Gordon had systematically taken her money to help cover his own debts.

On one occasion, he said, Gordon – who used to work as bakery manager at Morrisons stores in Carlisle, Penrith and Kendal – had even used her money to pay for access to gay porn on the internet.

Gordon, whose address was listed on court records as Balmoral Road, Whitehaven, has denied 16 charges – four of obtaining property by deception, four of forgery and eight of fraud. He is conducting his own defence without lawyers.

Opening the case for the prosecution, Mr Evans told the jury that for years Gordon had been Mrs Lugsden’s “friend and financial adviser”.

But in 2006 he started a process by which he “tricked her out of the title of her house, forged documents which she knew nothing about and then plundered her bank accounts.”

Mr Evans said: “In many senses she treated him and regarded him as a son and it may well be that on her death much of what she had would have been left to him.

“But he cruelly and criminally decided that he could not wait for that eventuality. He plundered her bank accounts and sold her house while she was still alive.”

It was alleged that when Gordon fell into financial difficulties he suggested to Mrs Lugsden that she could release some financial equity – and so be able to give him a loan – by selling part of her house in Waterloo Terrace, Arlecdon.

“The suggestion was that she should sell half her house to raise the money for the loan, lend it to him and that he would pay it back,” Mr Evans said.

But the court heard that Gordon sold the whole house behind her back, leaving her effectively no more than a tenant in her own home.

He then forged various documents – including tenancy agreements and a letter to the man who bought the house – to “cover his tracks”, Mr Evans said.

It was only four years later, after he stopped receiving the monthly rental on the house, that the new owner discovered what had been going on.

Ultimately he began possession proceedings and both Shelter and the Royal British Legion were called in to help Mrs Lugsden find somewhere to live.

Mr Evans told the jury that then Gordon sent Mrs Lugsden two letters – unsigned but “plainly” from him – apologising.

In the first he wrote: “I cannot show my face to you as I am too ashamed... I have done bad things. I’m very very sorry and hope you can forgive me in time and hope you know I have done more good than bad.”

In the second letter Gordon wrote: “Please forgive me for what I have done to you these past few weeks. I can only hope any good I have done counts more. I need a little more time to get the money. Please forgive me. I will get it for you.”

The trial is expected to last until early next week.

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