‘Destitute’ in an old dufflecoat leaves £250,000

IN life he was known for his obsessive thriftiness and he cut a forlorn figure during winter in his trademark dufflecoat, ill-fitting trousers and canvas pumps.

To the casual observer Gordon Hewitt may have appeared to be virtually destitute as he delivered and sold newspapers on the streets of Huddersfield, where he was a familiar face for decades.

But now, 14 months after his death at the age of 71, it can be revealed Mr Hewitt was a wealthy man after many years of assiduous saving.

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His fortune amounted to more than £250,000, much of it squirrelled away in at least 20 savings and investment accounts.

Six lady friends benefited from his will but, strangely, at least three of them barely knew him.

Ann, 63, a married mother-of-two from Huddersfield, was working as a shop assistant in the Wilkinson’s store in the West Yorkshire town when she first met him as a customer in 1988.

Although they only chatted a handful of times over the years, Mr Hewitt remembered her kindness as he made his will.

“He told me that he was brought up by women and didn’t like men,” she told the Yorkshire Post.

“He never bought much, maybe a box of matches, but he seemed to like the kindness of women. He told me he would leave me something in his will but I told him to look after himself.

“I never knew where he lived; I felt sorry for him when he was out in the snow in very thin canvas pumps. He was very grateful for the friendship.

“Because of his unkempt appearance people would shy away from him. People would laugh and make fun of him.

“I would like to publicly acknowledge that Gordon did have a genteel side and he only wanted to pass the time of day.

“I am not able to thank him but I want the people of Huddersfield to know that he was kind and generous.”

Other recipients of the cash were shocked at the size of the sums involved - and that he kept his word.

One woman, 70, who asked not to be named, wasn’t expecting much more than £50 and assumed he was virtually broke.

“I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was a mistake. I danced with him at a club on a Sunday night. Other people would take the mickey out of him, which I didn’t like.

“He would turn up at the dance in his dufflecoat and trousers which were too short. I didn’t know about his money – he must have lived very frugally.”

Another woman, in her 50s, had chatted to Mr Hewitt in the street near his home on a few dozen occasions.

“He hinted at a will but I thought he was talking rubbish,” she said. “I was gobsmacked (at the money). He did once tell me that he liked women and not men.”

Former neighbours in Winton Street, Lockwood, Huddersfield, recalled Mr Hewitt’s obsessive approach to saving money.

He never put the heating on, ate for free at churches and relied on the same dufflecoat for years.

David Cheeseman, 68, said: “I have known him for over 50 years and he was always eccentric and comical in his manner. I told him many times to look after himself and install central heating in his house. He just laughed.”

Friend and neighbour Jean Buckley said Mr Hewitt had lived in the same house all his life, going through two marriages and divorces.

She recalled his thrifty ways as something of an obsession. According to her, he helped out at a soup kitchen just for the free soup and would call into churches for the warmth.

His hobbies were watching crown green bowling and sitting in the pub, although he would rarely have more than one orange juice all evening, according to friends.

“He used to sit in his Reliant Robin reading a newspaper with the light on so he didn’t have to turn the light on in the house. He was just a character,” said Mrs Buckley.

“We knew he had some money, but not this much. I hope the six women enjoy the money more than he did.”