A widow told of her heartbreak yesterday after she sold her home and handed over £105,000 to a smooth-talking conman she fell in love with.
Beverly Healey, 69, thought she was enjoying another shot at romance when she fell for Jamie Evans, a handyman who carried out odd jobs around her home.
Using the alias James Price, the separated father-of-three gained her trust and convinced her he was being pursued by loan sharks and needed money to pay them off.
Over the following two years he persuaded her to hand over more money with a string of lies, including that he needed money to take his kids to Disneyland and that he was being pursued by French police.
She eventually sold her house and gave him £52,000 of the proceeds, leaving herself with just £17,000.
He then vanished and Beverly called in the police after eventually realising she was the victim of a conman.
Evans, 38, appeared before Bristol Crown Court last week where he pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud and was handed eight months in jail, suspended for a year.
Mum-of-one Beverly said: “I fell in love, we were planning to spend our life together, at the time the money didn’t matter, I was going to be with him.
“He had such a way of telling you these stories that you couldn’t help but feel sorry for him. He was very clever.
“I felt I knew him well and we got on famously. He took me in.
“He is a cruel man, a cruel, cruel man. I’m very wary now, especially of males.
“No words can explain it. I have learned from it and I won’t trust anyone again, ever.”
Beverly, of Brislington, Bristol, was widowed in 2002 after her postman husband of 15 years, Norman, died of a stroke aged 79.
She first met ‘James’ in August 2008 when he turned up at her door offering to clean her gutters and do other odd jobs.
The pair got on well and a mutual attraction developed which lead to a number of dates and daily phone calls.
A few months later Evans began asking her for money, claiming that the transit van he used for work had mysteriously broken and needed to be replaced.
The retired Crown Prosecution executive officer dutifully handed over £2,000 to help buy a new van, and when that one broke, handed him the same amount again to buy a truck.
She then gave him £8,000 when he claimed his flat had been burgled and all his possessions stolen.
In spring 2009 the traveller, who lived on a caravan park in Cardiff, pleaded for money to take his children to Disneyland Paris and Beverly gave him £7,500.
She said: “He told me he would like to take his three children to Disneyland because he wanted a week away without family pressures.
“I knew by this time how much he owed to the loan sharks and he told me he would find it very difficult to pay me back straight away.
“But because I thought we were going to be together I told him it didn’t matter about the time, just to pay me as and when he could.
“I loaned him about £7,500 for the weeks holiday and he got his daughter to ring me to say thank you, I don’t know if that even was his daughter.”
The pair continued to see each other and Evans rang the widow daily to keep in contact, even telling her at one point: “I didn’t want to fall in love with you but I have and I’m committed to you now”.
In August 2009 Evans began to turn up at Beverly’s house covered in bruises and claimed they were from the loan sharks who he could no longer afford to pay.
“I told him that I had given him all my money and that the only money I had left was tied up in the house,” she added.
“He told me that we were going to be together but I said I didn’t want to lose my security and needed time to think.
“The next time he came back with awful bruises and I said that it couldn’t go on like this, I was worried they were going to kill him, so I put my house up for sale.
“It sold in three weeks and we got a flat together.”
After clearing the mortgage Beverly was left with £69,000, of which she handed £52,000 to Evans to appease the loan sharks.
Despite landing the huge windfall, Evans continued his deceit and later claimed he had been arrested while on a trip to France and that French police were demanding £8,000 to lessen his sentence.
When Beverly agreed to pay the money Evans turned up at her door, proposed to her, took the money and then disappeared.
Heartbroken Beverly finally summed up the courage to report him to the police in June 2010 after she could not trace him.
Evans appeared before Bristol Crown Court last week where he pleaded guilty to two charges of fraud and was handed eight months in jail, suspended for a year.
Sentencing him, Judge Geoffrey Mercer told Evans: “You took advantage of Mrs Healey in an unscrupulous, unkind and utterly dishonest way.”
Beverly now lives day-to-day on her pension in a small flat and her remaining savings of £2,000.
She said she is disappointed he was not jailed but now wanted to put the past behind her.
“I’m just going to get on with my life and put it all behind me,” she said. “What a way to learn.
“Don’t be taken in by all the charm, it’s easy to see through it now, I used to read all about these things and think what a silly person, but when it happens to you you forget all that.
“I don’t know any evil people and I believed him.”
Evans was sentenced to eight months in jail, suspended for a year, 100 hours of unpaid work and a three-month curfew grounding him from 7pm to 7am.