Man tricked pensioner out of life savings
A CONMAN was facing a long jail sentence last night after being convicted of duping a pensioner out of his life savings.
Thomas Restorick, 25, of Craigmillar, Edinburgh, persuaded the retired civil servant to hand over almost 500,000 in cash for what he claimed was a secret inquiry into police corruption.
As the builder was remanded in custody to be sentenced later this month, the victim’s daughters expressed surprise that it had been so easy for her father to regularly withdraw large sums of cash from his bank.
Ralph Pride, 77, from Corstorphine, Edinburgh, handed over 454,259 to Restorick in the space of two years. Restorick spent the money on a luxury lifestyle, which included holidays, expensive jewellery and cars.
Mr Pride, a chemist, had been the Scottish Office’s chief inspector of industrial pollution and later worked part-time in public inquiries, such as Lord Cullen’s inquiry into the Piper Alpha disaster and the inquiry into the Dounreay nuclear power station.
A widower, he was "comfortably off" after inheriting a valuable portfolio of shares from an aunt and lived on his own in a bungalow .
In 1998, Restorick called at the house and convinced Mr Pride that his roof needed repairs. In their conversations, mention was made of Lord Hardie, the Lord Advocate at the time, who went on to become a High Court judge.
Mr Pride had known Lord Hardie as a QC appearing at public inquiries. Restorick seized his chance and set up a scheme to defraud Mr Pride.
Playing on Mr Pride’s deep sense of public duty, he pretended to be Lord Hardie’s emissary and spun a story of a secret investigation into police corruption which required private funding.
During the next two years, Mr Pride regularly handed over thousands of pounds after cashing in shares, until his savings were all gone.
Even then, Restorick did not let go. Mr Pride started to get unsolicited mail from loan companies and Restorick badgered him to fill in a 15,000 loan application.
As Mr Pride was later to tell detectives, Restorick was not happy that he had refused to take out a loan. "He knew at that stage I had exhausted my shares and given him everything," he said.
His daughters, Dr Hilary Hearn, 48, and Jacqueline Lofthouse, 44, discovered the fraud after Mr Pride received a letter from the Bank of Scotland saying he was in the red. They then learned he had been withdrawing sums up to 39,000.
"I was horrified from the minute he told me this story," said Mrs Lofthouse. "I was asking him how he knew it was Lord Hardie on the phone and he said he had seen the men’s badges before letting them in. He was very dismissive of all these comments. I don’t think he could understand my concern because he believed Lord Hardie was involved in this and he was an honourable man. He had been told he would get his money back," she added.
The worried sisters contacted the police and Mr Pride was able to give them the name, Thomas Restorick. It was a family name well known to the Lothian and Borders force. This particular member had the number of his solicitor programmed for speed dialling in his mobile phone.
Detectives set up a video camera in a waste paper basket in Mr Pride’s home. They also tapped his telephone and heard Restorick call and ask for 350 to be put in an envelope and left sticking out of the letter box.
That night, an accomplice was seized as he collected the cash. Restorick took flight in his Land Rover Discovery, with its personalised plate, W4 TAM, but was arrested a short time later.
In the intervening 15 months, Mr Pride’s physical and mental health has deteriorated steadily and he was unfit to give evidence.
The court heard evidence of lavish spending by Restorick. He had five holidays in Mexico and Spain in the space of 17 months, as opposed to Mr Pride’s fortnight on Arran, and he had a taste for expensive jewellery. His council house was said to be furnished "quite luxuriously" and he liked changing cars.
After seeing Restorick convicted at the High Court in Edinburgh, Mr Pride’s daughters said individual tellers had questioned their father about why he needed those sums and whether there was no alternative to cash.
"I think we are just surprised that no further steps were taken earlier," said Mrs Lofthouse.
Dr Hearn added: "Banks are probably constrained by a duty of confidentiality to their clients, and I can’t argue with that."
A spokesman for the Bank of Scotland said: "Our staff are encouraged to inquire into unusual transactions and to offer customers suitable advice, as indeed they did in this case. Ultimately, however, the bank must comply with its customers’ instructions."
Mr Pride now suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. Having lost his life savings, his home has been sold to provide funds for his care in a nursing home.
Mrs Lofthouse said she believed that Restorick had stolen her father’s final years as well as defrauding him of his money.
"The money has not been at the forefront of our minds," she said. "It was the ordeal our father has obviously gone through, the stress and the pressure and the fact he was actively concealing it from us."
Dr Hearn added: "We cannot understand how anybody could do this to an old man."
Detective Inspector Morris Blair, who led the inquiry, described it as a despicable crime, and said the whereabouts of most of the money was "still a bit of a mystery."
He added: "These crimes are going on all the time and people have got to ask questions to make sure it’s not happening to their relative or neighbour. They shouldn’t be worried that they are being an interfering son or daughter, or a nosy neighbour."
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
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Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
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