A GARDENER who took advantage of a frail Newtown pensioner by using the man’s cheque book to transfer £4,200 into his own account has been sent to prison for 10 months

Toby Hamilton earned the trust of 71-year-old Hywel Ellis Davies, who referred to him as his “gardening friend” and let him undertake household chores for him, including his shopping.

Yet Hamilton wrote out 11 cheques from the cheque book the pensioner gave him, cashing some and writing the others in amounts of £600, £400 and £300 to himself and his wife, Charlotte Hamilton.

Hamilton travelled 30 miles from his home in Machynlleth to Newtown after Mr Davies responded to a flier he’d distributed offering his gardening services.

But when the pensioner passed away his daughter raised concern that his bank accounts had been tampered with because initially £1,000 was unaccounted for.

Hamilton told police that payments for his services were “very relaxed” and he would get Mr Davies to sign a cheque and leave him to fill in the rest.

But a forensic expert who analysed the handwriting on 11 cheques determined they were fraudulent signatures.

In all £4,500 was unaccounted for, although those cheques only covered £4,000.

Prosecutor Jo Maxwell told Mold Crown Court: “Mr Davies was vulnerable because of his health problems and needed three care workers a day visiting him. He had mobility issues and didn’t use cash payments and had difficulties using a bank card.

“His affairs were taken care of by a Power of Attorney at his local solicitors, but they contacted his daughter to alert her that there had been some malpractice of his account.”

Mr Davies’ daughter said in a victim impact statement that the fraud had made it even harder for her and family to deal with the death of her father in 2015.

“How two people could be so deceitful I can’t comprehend. I can’t believe how they took advantage of him to have a better lifestyle for themselves,” she said.

Toby Hamilton, 24, of Forge Road, Machynlleth, admitted acquiring criminal property worth £42,000 as well as fraud by false representation with both offences taking place in 2015. Charlotte Hamilton, 23, of the same address, pleaded guilty to concealing and removing criminal property at the same time.

Barrister Jade Tufail said at the time the couple were living in a caravan and expecting their first child.

“They were living hand by mouth and he [Toby Hamilton] was feeling the pressure of being a sole provider for his family. He has caring responsibilities for his father in Chester for up to three days a week,” said the barrister.

Barrister Brian Treadwell pointed out that Charlotte Hamilton had not had any direct contact with the victim.

“There are two very young children at home who could lose contact with both their parents,” he warned.

But Judge Rhys Rowlands suspended Charlotte Hamilton’s four-month prison sentence for 12 months and noted: “This was out of character in your case – your husband was the prime mover.”

He told Toby Hamilton that it was a “very mean fraud” as he sentenced him to 10 months in prison and added: “No doubt you were finding times hard, but this was born out of greed and your victim was elderly and of extreme ill health. Your own father is of ill health and I find it surprising that you sought to take advantage of someone like this.”

The judge also ordered Charlotte Hamilton complete 20 days of a rehabilitation activity.