Barrister Edmund Fowler turned sleuth to track a villain operating a scam in Canterbury. The Faversham lawyer – who regularly prosecutes fraudsters in the crown court – spoke to his mother after she had been shopping at the Sainsbury’s store. He said:
“She told me she had been approached by a complete stranger, a man who looked flustered and claiming he had locked himself out of his car and with his computer and wallet inside. He gave her a sob story about not being able to break the window of the vehicle and needing £30 to get home to collect his spare keys.”
Mr Fowler, 44, immediately realised his mum, Gillian, 73, had been the victim of a crafty con artist – and decided to turn detective.
“I was angry that someone was preying on the kindness of people like my mother, taking her address and promising to return the cash with a bunch of flowers after telling her: ‘You’ve made my day’!”
He returned to the supermarket in Kingsmead Road the following day and walked into a nearby car park, opposite the DSS office, where he spotted a 6ft well-built man, who fitted the description of the fraudster.
“I sauntered up to him as he was speaking to another unsuspecting woman. He was giving her the same sob story he gave my mother the previous day… laying it on with a butter knife. I just knew when I saw him it was the same man. As he was jumping around saying: ‘I just don’t know what to do’ and she was saying he should contact the garage. I walked up to him and said: ‘Have you locked your keys in your car?’ He said: ‘I have actually’.”
The barrister decided to cross-examine the alleged motorist, asking:
”You’re getting clumsy… you did that yesterday!” You’re the man who took £30 from my mother yesterday…you are a fraudster aren’t you?”
The man claimed he had a car and denied taking money as he started to walk away. It was then, as the lawyer – who appears regularly in fraud and theft cases at Canterbury Crown Court – began phoning the police, the man suddenly bolted out of the car park.
“He ran through Sainsbury’s car park and into Kingsmead Road. I saw him go past the waste disposal company as, coincidentally, a police car neared the roundabout.”
He then ran into the plant and disappeared – but not before Mr Fowler had snapped him on his mobile phone’s camera. The lawyer added:
“I can’t believe that my mother was the first or the only victim of this fraudster and when people like him get away with it there is knock-on effect in that people are less likely to believe people who are in genuine distress.”
The photograph taken by Mr Fowler has been handed to local officers, who are keen to identify and speak to the man pictured. Anyone who has been the victim of the car lock-out ploy should contact Kent police immediately on 101.