Tormented widow snapped over callous threat to treasured gift

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THE campaign of exploitation which Kathleen Gardner endured only came to light when she was faced with losing a treasured gift from her late husband.

Mrs Gardner paid out thousands of pounds to rogue traders after they approached her at her home in Thornton-le-Dale near Pickering in North Yorkshire.

She had moved to Thornton-le-Dale, which lays claim to being one of Yorkshire’s prettiest villages, after her marriage to her second husband, Aubrey, was cut tragically short when he died of a heart attack only a year after their wedding a quarter of a century ago.

Mrs Gardner, 84, who is known as Kit, had her world torn apart by the fraudsters who her relatives claim robbed her of her last few years of independent living as she has ended up in a care home. Mrs Gardner was charged more than £6,000 for a botched building repair which – even if it had been carried out competently – was valued at just £30.

She only stood up to her tormentors when they threatened to take away a prized clock which stood on her mantelpiece and had been given to her by her late husband. The men had said they would take the clock unless she wrote them another cheque, but she was so alarmed she called her nephew, Michael Hall, in St Albans. North Yorkshire County Council’s trading standards officers were alerted and launched an investigation in 2010 which discovered cheques from the pensioner had been paid into the offenders’ accounts.

Mr Hall, 64, an assistant investigator for Hertfordshire Police, said: “Kit was terrified that she was going to lose something so special to her. I have been involved in investigations into rogue traders through my work with the police, but it is still hard to comprehend when it actually happens to one of your own relatives. I felt angry her home had been violated by these people, and that anyone could act in this way. She is a lovely lady and certainly did not deserve this to happen to her - none of the victims of rogue traders do.”

Travellers Steven Wood, 30, of Otley, and his brother-in-law Ryan Lowe, 21, from Wetherby, were both jailed last month for conning elderly dementia sufferers, including Mrs Gardner, out of tens of thousands of pounds.