York & North Yorkshire

Colin Blake jailed for £85,000 'manipulative' neighbour scam

Colin Blake Image copyright North Yorkshire Police
Image caption Colin Blake, 60, was extradited back to the UK from France by North Yorkshire Police

A man who stole thousands of pounds and military medals from a war veteran has been jailed for four and a half years.

Colin Blake befriended widower Frank Willett in Kirby Hill, North Yorkshire, and took control of his finances.

Leeds Crown Court heard Blake sold Mr Willett's house after he moved to a care home and £85,000 of the money went into his business and land in France.

Blake, 60, of Parthenay, France, pleaded guilty to two counts of theft.

In 2000, Blake moved in next door to the 78-year-old ex-serviceman in Hill View, with Mr Willett relying on Blake and his wife Sally to help with doctors' visits and shopping.

Jo Shepherd, prosecuting, told the court Mr Willett was "confused and struggling to cope" and his immediate family was initially happy with the arrangement as they lived 330 miles away.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Blake lived next to Mr Willett on Hill View, Kirby Hill

After two years of being neighbours, Blake became Mr Willett's main carer and took him to solicitors for a will to be drawn up making him "principal beneficiary", the court heard.

The prosecution said "Mr Blake had custody of Mr Willett's cheque book" and a lasting power of attorney was drawn up, giving him full control of Mr Willett's financial affairs.

In 2004, Mr Willetts was moved to a care home in Boroughbridge and Blake sold his home for £145,000, with war medals, photos and his late-wife's wedding ring disposed of or sold off, the court heard.

The court was told £15,000 was placed into the account of Blake's building firm, with £70,000 later invested in land in France.

In an impact statement, Mr Willett's daughter Leslie said Blake "cynically preyed on his confusion and vulnerability" before Mr Willett's death in 2009.

Mr Willett, who served in Normandy during World War II, had the last six years of his life "hijacked", the court heard.

Image caption Blake, who has three previous convictions for offences committed in the 1980s, was jailed at Leeds Crown Court

'Abused trust'

Nick Johnson QC, defending, accepted the case showed a "high breach of trust", but his client had initially provided daily care for Mr Willett and became "like a son" to him.

Judge James Spencer QC, sentencing Blake, said: "I'm quite sure that you took advantage of his dependence as he deteriorated and you abused that level of trust.

"You helped yourself to his money to prop up your business, then when the house was sold you helped yourself to a considerable portion of the sale."

A proceeds of crime hearing was now due to take place, the court heard.

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