Widower David Busk, 83, was swindled out of £40,000 after welcoming a family into his home, a court has heard
A devout Christian was swindled out of £40,000 after welcoming a family into his home, a court has heard.
Widower David Busk, 83, invited Terry O’Brien, his partner Paula Smith and his daughter to live with him in Letchworth, Hertfordshire.
But Cambridge Crown Court heard what happened next was ‘the dishonest financial exploitation of Mr Busk, a devout Christian’.
It is alleged Smith made a marriage proposal to Mr Busk, which he accepted only for her then to steal £1,000 from him.
There were also allegations, said Mr Busk, that he had been ‘infiltrating Paula’s knickers’.
The court was told that in the end he handed over £16,300 to O’Brien for the purchase of a mobile home to ‘help get him off my premises’.
Mr Busk told the court that he first met O’Brien at Baldock’s Christ Church in 2013 and that he and his wife Jean had after that been in regular contact with him.
He described how his wife, who died in 2014, thought of him ‘as a second son’.
O’Brien, a builder, and his daughter Heidi O’Brien, 27, – not the daughter who had lived at Mr Busk’s home – both of Hitchin, are accused of four offences of fraud or theft totalling £42,480, which they deny.
Builder Terry O’Brien (left) and his daughter Heidi O’Brien (right) are alleged to have cheated devout Christian Mr Busk out of thousands of pounds
Mr Busk told the court he felt ‘very disappointed’ about O’Brien.
He added: ‘He’s cost me quite a lot of time and particularly money. I’m rather skint actually. Obviously at my age one needs to have some sort of backing.’
Talking about Paula Smith the marriage proposal he said that she had had a chequered background and he felt ‘she had suffered’.
He said she proposed marriage to him about two to three weeks after she arrived.
‘She had already intimated she had had a bit of a rough time in her early years and I felt she was a little bit lonely, looking for someone to form a relationship with,’ he said.
‘She proposed to me, would I be prepared to get married to her, which in hindsight, me being 80 and her a little over 40, was an unlikely situation. I waited for about a fortnight and said I would marry her.’
Heidi O’Brien leaving court today. She is charged with one offence of theft of £3,370 between June 2013 and January 2016, relating to £200 for a car repair, a £2,500 loan and a further £700 loan
But he said that after a visit to the Register Office they were returning home to get formally engaged but £1,000 went missing from his car and later Smith confessed she had taken it.
He told the jury that this ended any thought of marriage because he couldn’t trust her.
Heidi O’Brien, who never lived at Mr Busk’s address, is charged with one offence of theft of £3,370 between June 2013 and January 2016, relating to £200 for a car repair, a £2,500 loan and a further £700 loan.
She is said to have repaid £30.
The court heard that she had pleaded guilty to stealing a blank cheque and then fraudulently using it to deposit £2,000 of Mr Busk’s money into her own account.
Her father, who moved in to the complainant’s house with a younger daughter and was later joined by Smith, faces three charges.
He is accused of fraud by falsely representing he needed £15,000 to buy a VW Transporter to use in his building trade and to develop a taxi business between February and April 2014.
Two theft charges relate to £7,810 between July 2014 and January 2016, the sum outstanding from £20,000 handed over to O’Brien to create a ‘hedge fund’; and theft of £16,300 given for a mobile home between April 2015 and January 2016.
Prosecutor Michael Attenborough told the jury of six men and six women: ‘This is about the dishonest financial exploitation of Mr Busk, a devout Christian.’
‘These defendants behaved utterly dishonestly.’
O’Brien’s move into Mr Busk’s home came after there were problems with his council accommodation, the court was told.
Mr Busk paid off his £900 rent arrears and, after his wife died, invited O’Brien and a younger daughter to move into his three-bedroom home. Smith arrived about three months later.
The trial continues.
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