Readers rally for war hero

GENEROUS readers touched by the plight of a war hero who was duped by callous doorstep conmen have restored the elderly victim's faith in human nature.

By James Mortlock

GENEROUS readers touched by the plight of a war hero who was duped by callous doorstep conmen have restored the elderly victim's faith in human nature.

An envelope containing £50 in cash has been received from a reader at the EADT offices in Ipswich and a mother is planning to send Great Cornard pensioner Peter Remblance a cheque for the same amount after hearing of his ordeal at the hands of bogus gas board workers.

The 88-year-old said last week he felt violated after the fraudsters tricked him out of his £50 Christmas savings.

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But yesterday he told of his delight at the generosity of EADT readers: "It's really touching – I think it's very, very nice of them to do this.

"It restores my faith in human nature and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them very much. It's good there are some kind people like them in the world – especially after what's happened to me."

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The reader, who wants to remain anonymous, said he was appalled by what had happened to Mr Remblance: "I think it was terrible. I don't think it's fair that people take advantage of vulnerable and defenceless people – it's disgusting.

"The £50 was a lot of money to him and I wanted to see him have it back. It's a pleasure to give it and I hope he gets two or three people coming forward with £50 to give him a bit of a bonus for what he went through. I hope it will make his Christmas a bit nicer."

Mr Remblance, who served in West Africa during the Second World War and later received a British Empire Medal from the Queen for his long service to the Red Cross, was one of several pensioners across Suffolk and Essex who were targeted by a gang of thieves dressed in work-style coats last week.

The partially deaf veteran, who is now considering whether he should keep the donations, was fooled when a man knocked on his door and claimed to be from the gas board. He entered his home and said he needed to test a gas oven in the kitchen.

Although the pensioner continually asked for identification, the man kept Mr Remblance talking and even got in his way when he tried to leave the kitchen. When the man finally left Mr Remblance saw he was joined by another man and noticed his home had been searched and even his bedclothes pulled back. His £50 Christmas savings had been taken from a tin.

The pensioner said: ""They went through everything and I do feel violated. I don't feel too bad in myself now but I'm still angry with myself. There were workmen working opposite and that fooled me. I'm still telling myself off for letting them in.

"But my son and daughter say its better to lose £50 than to get beaten up. If I had seen that man going through my things I might have gone after him and could have been beaten up and finished up in hospital."

Mr Remblance says the conmen have made him wary: "I put the chain on when I answer the door and would advise everyone to do the same.

"It's also surprising the amount of people who come to the door without identification. Anyone who calls on someone should have some form of identification. People also need to check up on callers by ringing who they say they represent."

Patricia Gray, from Willingham, in Cambridgeshire, has promised to send Mr Remblance a £50 cheque. She said she was touched by his story and believes dozens more will be: "I wouldn't be surprised if he ends up with a couple of thousand. I felt very sorry for him – elderly people shouldn't be targeted in this way."

Mrs Gray believes she had a similar caller knock at her door and understands the trauma the pensioner suffered: "I feel so sorry for this man. It's so easy to be taken in, especially if you are old. People shouldn't have to put up with this kind of thing."

Elderly homeowners in Sudbury, Great Cornard, Colchester, Dunmow, Chelmsford and Ipswich were targeted during the latest spate of incidents last Monday. And detectives in Suffolk and Essex believe the crimes were carried out by the same gang and are now working together to catch the culprits.

The two men believed to be involved in the thefts were white, aged 25 to 30 around 5ft 8in tall and wearing "workman" style jackets.

Earlier this year the EADT re-launched the Safe in Your Home Campaign following the death of Essex pensioner Thelma Avis. Mrs Avis, 90, of Colchester, died shortly after bogus callers stole thousands of pounds from her home.

The campaign has been supported by Mrs Avis's family and the detectives investigating the incident. Three men are currently on police bail in connection with the death.

As part of the campaign the EADT has produced posters and handouts providing pensioners with advice on how to stay safe in their homes and the danger signs to look out for.

Anyone with information about the latest incidents should call 01284 773400 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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