A CONMAN who tricked his way into pensioners' homes and stole their cash and valuables was jailed for three years yesterday.

Richard Clay, 24, posed as workmen or officials to conned frail and elderly people across Oxfordshire out of thousands of pounds, Oxford Crown Court heard.

He admitted two counts of burglary, one of theft and asked for 24 similar offences to be taken into account by the judge.

Jane Alt, prosecuting, described how Clay, of Stetchford, Birmingham, tricked his way into the homes of three of his victims in September and November of last year.

In the first, in Jericho Street, Oxford, he told an elderly disabled woman who suffered from multiple sclerosis and was confined to a wheelchair, that he was a volunteer window cleaner. The woman invited him inside and when he left she found her handbag, chequebook and cash box containing £500 were missing.

In the second, in Orchard Street, Oxford, a 93-year-old man invited Clay in after he told him he was there to "see to the taps". Miss Alt told the court: "The victim believes he was from social services. Mr Clay began mending a bookcase." When the elderly man's careworker unexpectedly turned up at the house, Clay said he had to get some tools from his car, but vanished, the court heard. The man later noticed his wallet containing £900 had been taken from a shelf.

On the third occasion, Clay told an elderly woman in Evesham he had come to mow her lawn and, after she invited him inside for a cup of tea, stole her purse containing £100.

After his arrest, Clay admitted another 24 similar offences. Miss Alt said: "Most were of knocking on the doors of elderly people.

"He agreed the elderly people were more vulnerable and gullible."

The court heard that Clay had previous convictions for deception burglaries on pensioners.

Michael Anning, defending, said Clay had begun re-offending after splitting from his wife and turning to drink. Jailing Clay for three years, Judge Anthony King said: "These offences were very mean. You targeted the elderly and infirm."

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