Hartlepool gang who preyed on elderly jailed

Phillip Orton (left), Lee Davidson (centre) and Scott Greathead Image copyright Northumbria Police
Image caption Police said Phillip Orton (left), Lee Davidson (centre) and Scott Greathead committed "despicable" crimes

Three fraudsters who posed as builders to con vulnerable elderly people out of thousands of pounds have been jailed.

One victim lost almost £30,000, while an 87-year-old woman died after suffering injuries at her home.

Phillip Orton, Lee Davidson, and Scott Greathead, all of Hartlepool, were convicted of conspiracy to commit fraud and fraud by false representation.

They were jailed for three years and nine months; five years and two-and-a-half years respectively.

The man described as the leader of the gang, Michael Gales, is on the run having been found guilty of the same offences.

A fifth member, William Levi Gales, was charged with manslaughter but subsequently died.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the men travelled across County Durham, Teesside and Northumberland and were aggressive towards their victims - urging them to pay for work that had not been carried out.

In one instance they drove a man to a bank to withdraw cash.

Image copyright Northumbria Police
Image caption Joan Barnett was described as having "lost all interest in life" after being attacked

Joan Barnett, 87, was hurt at her Sunderland home in August 2014 when she was pushed by one of the men who had entered her property.

She died four months later in hospital having been admitted with a shoulder injury.

Det Insp Dave English, of Northumbria Police, said it had been a "tragic case".

"It has been utterly heartbreaking for the family and friends of Joan Barnett and all the other victims.

"Preying on vulnerable and elderly people is sickening."

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