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Widow 'taken for ride' by rogue trader

PUBLISHED: 16:11 07 May 2009 | UPDATED: 15:14 07 July 2010

An 85-year-old widow said she was "taken for a ride" by a rogue trader who charged her more than 100 times his quoted figure for repairs to her house.

Pip Harper had previously allowed a man who arrived unannounced at her door to clear moss from her driveway and repair a drain cover at her home in Beetley.

An 85-year-old widow said she was “taken for a ride” by a rogue trader who charged her more than 100 times his quoted figure for repairs to her house.

Pip Harper had previously allowed a man who arrived unannounced at her door to clear moss from her driveway and repair a drain cover at her home in Beetley.

She was then given an estimate of £25 to fix a small piece of cement beneath the roof tiles of her Ashley Road house, where she has lived alone since the death of her husband, former RAF officer James.

But after the work was completed in March she was forced to write a cheque for £2,800 - and only stood up to the workman when he later demanded an extra £4,000.

Speaking for the first time since her ordeal, Mrs Harper said she was furious to have been taken advantage of and urged others in her situation not to be afraid to call the police.

“I felt such a fool writing a cheque for that amount of money,” she said. “I had a bad day that day - I have them occasionally. I didn't know what I could do.

“I never felt threatened. It was only when he stood over me and told me to write another cheque for £4,000 that I said: 'No way, mate'. That is when it went through my mind that he was con artist.

“I didn't know if he was going to clobber me or not. I was not frightened of him - I was thinking I was going to pick up a chair and hit him with it.

“I have been taken for a ride. I would say to anyone else in my situation they should make sure they ask how much work is going to cost and have it written down.

Mrs Harper said the man had “frog-marched” her to the bank to transfer funds for an earlier job to repair a rotten wooden drain cover.

“I couldn't remember the amount he charged, but he took me down to the bank and said he needed the money to go on holiday,” she said.

“He later said I had got some cracked tiles up on the roof and that he would do it for £25. I thought it was good price and I would get rid of him after that. I made a cup of coffee for him and he came in with a lump of cement and said: 'This will cost you a little bit more'.”

A friend of Mrs Harper's late husband called the police on her behalf. She said: “If I had known it would be so easy to talk to them I would have done it before.”

A 27-year-old man was arrested in connection with the incident and was released without charge on police bail until June 4.

The issue of doorstep crime is a top priority for Norfolk police's Operation Radar, a dedicated team launched last summer to combat distraction burglaries and rogue traders.

Det Sgt Pete Jessop said: “Every arrest we make is great for the people of Norfolk. These traders should not be seen as cheeky conmen, they are fraudsters.

“People must not be scared or embarrassed about coming forward. If someone believes they have become a victim, or knows someone who has, then they should pass the details on to us and we will check them out.”

To contact Norfolk police, call 0845 456 4567. For advice on rogue traders, call Norfolk Trading Standards' helpline on 0845 404 0506.

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