'Quick thinking' PCs stop woman, 93, from being defrauded

PC Daniel Bellingham, Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington and PC James Ireland with the commendations

PC Daniel Bellingham, Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington and PC James Ireland with the commendations - Credit: Essex Police

Two Essex Police officers have been praised for their instinctive work to stop a 93-year-old woman falling victim to "substantial fraud". 

Roads Policing officers PC James Ireland and PC Dan Bellingham received commendations from Chief Constable Ben-Julian Harrington for helping the pensioner when out on patrol.

The officers described how a "tangled web" unfolded when they stopped a van, later uncovering the woman's will had been altered and the driver of the van and his brother had been made the main beneficiaries. 

PCs Ireland and Bellingham, who are based at Stanway, drew up alongside the vehicle and saw a man driving with an elderly woman in the passenger seat.

PC Bellingham said: "We stopped the vehicle, and a tangled web unfolded. The driver was in his 50s and there was just something not right about him. He looked very worried and nervous.

"I got an account from the woman, James got an account from the man and their stories didn’t match. She thought she was going home – she lived in London – but the van was heading towards Clacton.

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The officers were praised for their work in Stanway, Colchester - Credit: IAN BURT

"We asked the woman what she wanted to do and he said ‘If you want to take her, that’s fine’, which was really strange.

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"So, we decided that we’re not letting her go. She would have been happy to go but I think she would have suffered some great harm when she reached her destination."

The officers learned the elderly woman was a friend of the van driver’s late mother and the changes to her will. She had also been persuaded to cease contact with her family.

PC Ireland said: "It was shocking to hear what he’d been doing but it was like the penny dropping for us. We knew it wasn’t right. The fact he was doing that was shocking but not a surprise.

"The woman was very vulnerable. He’d taken advantage of her and would have continued to do that. From the day we became involved that ceased."

When taking the woman home, the 93-year-old's main concern was that she didn’t have anything in the fridge at home so the officers wouldn’t be able to have a cup of tea back at her house.

PC Bellingham added: "We got her home, made her a cup of tea and made sure she had means of contact, that her heating was on and she had everything she needed. Then we let the local authority know she was at home and needed a visit from them."

The officers then contacted MOSOVO – the Essex Police team managing sexual and violent offenders – and the equivalent with the Metropolitan Police and Essex police said the driver was a known sex offender. 

Chief Constable Harrington said: "This was tremendous police work. The officers trusted their instincts, asked the right questions and recognised the vulnerability of the victim.

"Our officers are here to help people, keep people safe and catch criminals and this is exactly what PC Bellingham and PC Ireland did.

"Their quick-thinking led to the discovery of a substantial fraud and returned the elderly woman to her safety of her home from the hands of a known offender."