Ten years for £500,000 con on pensioner
A CONMAN who duped a wealthy pensioner of his life savings of almost £500,000 was jailed for ten years yesterday.
Thomas Restorick, 25, left Ralph Pride, 77, penniless and homeless in what a judge described as "the worst case of deception of the elderly ever to come before the courts in Scotland."
At the High Court in Edinburgh, Roderick Macdonald, QC, added: "It was a wicked and contemptible crime... you were a predator who cunningly and heartlessly fleeced an elderly and vulnerable man of all his liquid assets... it calls for an exemplary sentence, both to punish you for your despicable behaviour and to make clear to others inclined to prey on the elderly what the consequences are likely to be when they are brought to justice."
Restorick, of Craigmillar, Edinburgh, was convicted by a jury of defrauding Mr Pride of 454,259 between 1998 and 2000. He tricked his victim into believing he was financing a secret investigation into police corruption.
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.
Mrs Lofthouse said individual bank tellers had questioned her father about why he needed to withdraw large sums of money and whether there was no alternative to cash. "I think we are just surprised no further steps were taken earlier," she said.
A spokesman for the Bank of Scotland said: "Our staff are encouraged to inquire into unusual transactions and to offer customers suitable advice, as they did in this case. Ultimately, however, the bank must comply with its customers’ instructions."
Since the offence, Mr Pride, a widower, has been diagnosed as suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and cancer. His house, in Craigmount View, Corstorphine, Edinburgh, was sold to finance a nursing home place.
"The money has not been at the forefront of our minds," said Mrs Lofthouse. "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."
The court heard how Restorick had been living everyone’s dream of always paying in cash, whether it was the 17,000 balance on a new Land Rover Discovery to be adorned with his personalised plates, W4 TAM, exotic holidays or a designer watch and other jewellery.
He had five holidays in Mexico and Spain in the space of 17 months, as opposed to Mr Pride’s fortnight on Arran.
To the world at large, he was a self-employed builder, but he had found his own personal cash dispenser in the gullible pensioner.
Mr Pride, a chemist, had been the Scottish Office’s chief inspector of industrial pollution.
He 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 Corstorphine, Edinburgh.
In 1998, Restorick called at Mr Pride’s house and convinced him the 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 him as a QC appearing at public inquiries.
Restorick seized his chance and set up a cruel scam. 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 corruption within the police which required private funding.
During the next two years, Mr Pride regularly handed over thousands of pounds until his savings were gone.
"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 had he 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 and he was an honourable man.
"He had been told he would get his money back."
When police were called in to investigate by Mr Pride’s family, a video camera was put in a waste paper basket in Mr Pride’s home. Detectives 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 lifted the envelope. Restorick took flight in his Land Rover Discovery, but was stopped and arrested a short time later.
Dr Hearn said: "My father was a moral man and believed in right and wrong, but he saw the best in everybody. He was not an easy pushover, but he had a certain naivet."
"The whole thing has had a very demoralising effect on him, " said Mrs Lofthouse.
"He had expressed a preference to stay in the family home (in his final years). That is not an option now."
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