A pony-tailed builder who duped a lonely widow out of half a million pounds has gone on the run.
When John Jenkins, 70, failed to turn up for the last day of his trial at St Albans Crown Court, Recorder Simon Sterling issued a warrant for his arrest.
Police searched two addresses in Berkhamsted and two in Aylesbury where he had lived previously, but there was no sign of him.
The judge ruled that the case could continue in Jenkins’ absence and the jury of eight men and four women found him guilty of fraud.
He has now been sentenced to six years imprisonment, but is still at large.
The judge revealed later that Jenkins had called his lawyer on Sunday in a distressed state.
It was reported that he went out on Sunday night and had not come back, and might have left the country.
Over 31/2 years, a total of £532,695 passed from 67-year-old Josephine Stubbings to Jenkins for work a surveyor said should have cost no more than £60,000.
Jenkins spent tens of thousands of pounds of his victim’s money on holidays to Spain and the United States and on shopping trips.
Prosecutor Michael Speak said: “He relentlessly spent the money. He went on the most extraordinary spending sprees day after day.”
Mrs Stubbings had a modest two up two down home in Berkhamsted and lived a frugal existence, but through investments made by herself and her late husband she had managed to “salt away” well over £500,000.
Giving video evidence via a pre-recorded interview with the police made in February 2012 Mrs Stubbings said: “Although he swindled me. I don’t bear him any animosity. He swindled me out of a lot of money.”
Mr Speak said: “She said Jenkins did not give her any invoices or receipts. She thought she had paid out about £150,000.
“Mr Jenkins realised this was a golden opportunity to make money dishonestly. He persuaded Mrs Stubbings to have an endless succession of work on her house.
“He invented preposterous charges, amounting to thousands and thousands of pounds. She trusted him and did not have a clear grasp of the situation.
“Sadly, she thought he was friend – in reality he was anything but.”
A Gazette source who tipped off police about his concerns more than two years ago – but wished to remain anonymous – said that more should have been done to stop him: “There’s only one word for people like him – disgusting. The police and the banks should have done more.
“I knew what he was up to, so why didn’t they? The banks would have seen her drawing out £30,000 at a time, so why didn’t they do something?”
Speaking after the sentencing, assistant investigator Deborah Newsham said: “I would appeal to anyone who has seen Jenkins or knows of his whereabouts to contact police immediately.”
If you can help, call 101 quoting crime reference D2/12/239.