A FRAUDSTER who threatened to kill a 92-year-old west Cumbrian war veteran after fleecing £27,000 from his bank accounts has been jailed for 30 months.

Caring John Rainford was targeted because he offered to help Scott Hanson, whom he spotted outside his local church in Cockermouth, seeming depressed an in desperate need.

But over the next three months, Carlisle Crown Court heard, the gambling addict cynically exploited the pensioner, repeatedly lying about his situation to extract money from Mr Rainford and then bullying and threatening him in the hope of covering up his crime.

Hanson, 35, admitted a single count of fraud.

Prosecutor Gerard Rogerson described how on August 12 last year Mr Rainford - described as a devout Christian - visited his local church and noticed Hanson leaning against railings.

“He seemed to be a in a really low way,” said Mr Rogerson. “He appeared depressed. Mr Rainford approached him out of concern and asked if he could help.”

The pensioner offered to pay Hanson’s rail fare back to Burnley. The defendant asked for his phone number, saying he planned to repay him.

But over the following weeks, he repeatedly asked for money, claiming he needed it for various reasons, including a deposit on a flat; and to pay for a forklift truck licence. He also persuaded Mr Rainford to pay for accommodation in Lockerbie.

Hanson warned the pensioner not to tell anybody about the money.Mr Rogerson said: “He told Mr Rainford: ‘If you call the police I will kill you.’”

The scam was exposed after the two banks used by the pensioner intervened, and police were alerted. It later emerged that in September and October, Hanson, from Tempest Road, Hartlepool, spent £24,282 at his local bookies, winning back £17,000.

Mr Rainford spoke of the impact of the crime, saying: “I believed it was my Christian duty to approach him and make him feel welcome.” He lived in a friendly community, and normally said good morning to people he passed.

“Since this incident,” he said, “I have questioned whether I should be so open in speaking to others; it’s made me question whether they are taking advantage of me...

“I feel sad he could do this to me and I now realise that I was targeted and taken advantage of that day.”

The money he lost would have been bequeathed to his grandchildren and great grandchildren. “I am now scared to touch my money because of how little I have left of it,” he added.

Chris Evans, for Hanson, said the defendant had expressed remorse and was now motivated to tackle his gambling addiction, which underlies this and other previous offences.

Passing sentence, Judge James Adkin told Hanson: “You committed a mean offence when you gained the trust of a 92-year-old man who took pity on you.

“Between August 19 and October 25, you manipulated him, and occasionally bullied him, and he paid over to youn some £27,000. You lied about the fact that you were down on your luck and impoverished.” The pensioner was left sick with worry, he said.