War hero's fury at bogus callers

A WAR veteran who survived nearly four years as a Japanese Prisoner of War has described how he stood up to callous conmen who let themselves into his home.

A WAR veteran who survived nearly four years as a Japanese Prisoner of War has described how he stood up to callous conmen who let themselves into his home.

Leslie Dean, a five-times decorated Lance Corporal with the First Cambridgeshire Regiment during the Second World War, was targeted by two burglars on Thursday and robbed of £400.

But the 85-year-old, who lives in Newmarket, last night spoke out of his ordeal in the hope of raising awareness of the tactics used by such criminals to prevent other vulnerable pensioners from also becoming victims.

Mr Dean discovered the men had sneaked into his bungalow at around 3pm while he had been outside cleaning windowsills.

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The brave widower, who spent three years and eight months as a Japanese prisoner of war and was forced to work on the Burma railway and Bridge over the River Kwai, found one intruder crouched under his bathroom sink.

“It was a terrible shock,” said Mr Dean. “I managed to keep my cool and asked what he thought he was doing, and he said he was making my pipes safe, as there was air in them.

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“But I know a bit about plumbing, and knew it was not true, so I kept telling him I was not satisfied.

“Low and behold, out of the blue, a teenager turned up and I realised he must have come out of my bedroom.

“I was bold, and did not show any sign of being nervous. I tried to keep as calm as I could, and showed a bold face to the devils. I stood up to them and told them to empty their pockets.”

After the men had left, Mr Dean discovered his house, car and garage keys had been stolen, along with his wallet - which contained his bank card and £200 in cash he had withdrawn the previous day to pay bills.

And although a block was placed on the bank card just 25 minutes later, an additional £200 had already been taken from his account.

“By that time the trauma was just starting to get hold of me and I just felt I couldn't carry on,” said Mr Dean, who has since had to have all his locks changed. “It was such a shock.

“But I was lucky they only got away with £400. The youngster in the bedroom heard me tackle the other one and they decided they should go – otherwise they may have taken more.

“I just wish I had been the same age as they were. I can assure you, they would not have got away Scot free.”

Mr Dean was captured by Japanese soldiers in 1942 and released in 1945 – just days before he was due to face execution alongside the other 10,000 servicemen who survived the atrocities of PoW camps.

During his time in the jungles of Singapore and Thailand, he recovered from deadly cholera and regular bouts of malaria, and watched in horror as many of his friends and comrades perished.

“I was very lucky,” added Mr Dean. “We were only just doing our jobs, but I had to lay to rest so many of the friends I went to school with and joined up with.”

The incident brings the total number of distraction burglaries in Suffolk to 27 in just one month.

Mike Nunn, police spokesman, said: “These are despicable offences where the offenders are targeting in the main elderly members of the community and their actions cause an enormous amount of distress.

“We believe it is likely there is more than one group of offenders working in the county and we are liaising with other neighbouring forces to determine whether these 27 offences are linked with any others in the region.”

Mr Nunn urged householders to always to use a door chain, and to check the photographic identification of any callers.

Police are also appealing for information regarding the incident at Mr Dean's home. The man in the bathroom is described as white, in his early 20s with light-coloured hair. He wore a dark blue shirt and denim-coloured trousers.

The second man was also white, in his late teens and also had light coloured hair. He wore a light pullover and light denim trousers. Both men looked very similar and Mr Dean believes they may have been brothers.

Anyone with information about the burglary should contact Suffolk police on 01284 774100 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.

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