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'I'm sick to my stomach' - Victims scammed by 'ruthless' conman speak

PUBLISHED: 20:08 02 April 2019 | UPDATED: 20:08 02 April 2019

Graeme Silburn's parents were targeted by a conman who posed as an antiques dealer and swindled victims out of family heirlooms.
 Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Graeme Silburn's parents were targeted by a conman who posed as an antiques dealer and swindled victims out of family heirlooms. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

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The son of an elderly couple who died before the conman who scammed them was brought to justice said the antiques dealer's lies made him "sick to his stomach".

Graeme Silburn's parents were targeted by a conman who posed as an antiques dealer and swindled victims out of family heirlooms.
Graeme's parents Kenneth and Patricia Silburn
. Picture: SONYA DUNCANGraeme Silburn's parents were targeted by a conman who posed as an antiques dealer and swindled victims out of family heirlooms. Graeme's parents Kenneth and Patricia Silburn . Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

Graeme Silburn, from Harwich, has opened up about the way his parents Patricia and Kenneth were treated by Daniel Clelland, who was jailed for five-and-a-half years this week.

Clelland, 44, of The Old Stables, Little Hallingbury and formerly of Mill Lane in Bradfield, cheated his victims out of an estimated £350,000 worth of family heirlooms.

He befriended clients to his two antique shops – the Dolls House in Harwich and the Scrooge in Manningtree – and strung them along when they failed to get cash from sales or their items back, Chelmsford Crown Court heard.

“I still feel embarrassed and stupid for letting it happen,” said Mr Silburn.

Graeme Silburn's parents were targeted by a conman who posed as an antiques dealer and swindled victims out of family heirlooms.
Picture: SONYA DUNCANGraeme Silburn's parents were targeted by a conman who posed as an antiques dealer and swindled victims out of family heirlooms. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

“Dad, who was a retired steam engine driver, died two weeks ago and didn’t see him brought to justice.

“Mum didn’t live to see it either. It makes me feel sick to my stomach, the way they were treated.

“Dad had dementia and Parkinson’s disease, so he was vulnerable.

“He (Clelland) was clever and seemed knowledgeable about the antiques.

Graeme Silburn's parents were targeted by a conman who posed as an antiques dealer and swindled victims out of family heirlooms.
Graeme's parents Kenneth and Patricia Silburn
. Picture: SONYA DUNCANGraeme Silburn's parents were targeted by a conman who posed as an antiques dealer and swindled victims out of family heirlooms. Graeme's parents Kenneth and Patricia Silburn . Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

“I did think his behaviour was bizarre, he kept coming up with excuses once he had the items.

“I don’t know if we’ll ever get them back.”

Among the items taken were a stamp collection, a porcelain doll dating back to the early 1900s, holiday brochures signed by Morecambe and Wise and a postcard collection.

Sentencing Clelland, Judge David Turner QC said the fraudster had conned his victims in a “mean and ruthless way”.

Daniel Clelland, now of The Old Stables, Little Hallingbury, near Bishop’s Stortford and formerly of Mill Lane, Bradfield, Manningtree, has been jailed Picture: ESSEX POLICEDaniel Clelland, now of The Old Stables, Little Hallingbury, near Bishop’s Stortford and formerly of Mill Lane, Bradfield, Manningtree, has been jailed Picture: ESSEX POLICE

He admitted six offences of fraud by false representation and one of theft between April 2015 and January 2016 on the first day of his trial.

Richard Browning-Smith, another victim, had his great uncle Geoffrey Wear’s First World War medals taken by Clelland.

He said: “Their loss is very traumatic for me.

“No-one from this horrendous conflict is now alive. I did go to the Menin Gate last year, I could have worn these medals in his honour – being his nearest surviving relative.”

A porcelain doll taken in the Clelland case Picture: GRAEME SILBURNA porcelain doll taken in the Clelland case Picture: GRAEME SILBURN

The Essex Yeomanry medals all have his great uncle’s name clearly engraved on them.

A gold vesta case was also stolen, which had his name and ‘Essex Yeomanry’ featured on it.

“I am hoping someone must have seen these items, which are my family heirlooms,” he said.

“Regretfully, Geoff Wear on his return from the First World War suffered greatly from shell shock, and the horrendous conditions in the trenches.”

Patricia with a teddy bear dating back to the early 1900s, which is still yet to be recovered Picture: GRAEME SILBURNPatricia with a teddy bear dating back to the early 1900s, which is still yet to be recovered Picture: GRAEME SILBURN

He ended up taking his own life, Mr Browning-Smith added.

“I hope Clelland hears of this so it will haunt him for the rest of his natural life,” he said.

It is understood another item, a stirrup cup belonging to the Essex and Suffolk Hunt, has now been retrieved.

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of the heirlooms listed above should call Essex Police on 101.

Family heirlooms taken from the Silburn family Picture: GRAEME SILBURNFamily heirlooms taken from the Silburn family Picture: GRAEME SILBURN

Judge Turner has ordered a further hearing with view to assessing and confiscating Clelland’s assets, in the hope of compensating the victims.

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