Builder 'posed as war veteran's grandson to sell £870,000 home'

Evening Standard Incident 3 weeks ago

A builder posed as a war veteran’s grandson in a plot to swindle him out of his £870,000 home, a court was told. 

Tony Casey, 34, is accused of preying on Henry Bennett in the last years of his life. Along with two brothers, Jeremiah and John O’Connor, he allegedly tried to cash in on the property in Wandsworth they had gained control of just weeks after Mr Bennett died aged 88 in March 2016. 

Kingston crown court heard that Casey told a funeral director he was Mr Bennett’s nephew, and posed as his grandson to a solicitor and a locksmith. 

The alleged fraud was uncovered when Mr Bennett’s second cousin, Linda Sutton, became concerned for him having not heard from him and saw the house for sale online, the jury heard. She was later handed the home after a judgment in the civil courts.

The jury heard Mr Bennett, who served in the Second World War and worked for British manufacturer De La Rue until his retirement, was a “private man” who had never married. It was said he sold the freehold of his home in 2007 for £20,000 and received a 21-year lease in return.

John, 37, is accused of providing the money for the deal and the property was signed over to his brother Jeremiah, 38, before ownership was transferred to Casey. Jeremiah denies any knowledge of the deal.

Funeral director Yvonne Brown said Casey claimed to be the executor of Mr Bennett’s estate and chose the cheapest possible option. “He said to me he was the nephew,” she said. 

Casey never collected the ashes, which were eventually picked up by Mrs Sutton. “It was very upsetting the cremation had taken place,” she said.

Estate agent Colin Brown said Casey wanted a quick sale because he was planning to move to Australia. “We were instructed to pick up keys from a local locksmith. We were told it was owned by Mr Casey’s grandfather,” he said.

Casey insisted Mr Bennett was “of sound mind” when he gave up ownership of the freehold, and said he was “treated like a grandson” by the pensioner. Casey, of Potters Bar, Jeremiah, of Morecambe, Lancashire, and John, of Sevenoaks, Kent, all deny conspiracy to defraud.

The trial continues.

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