ROGUE builder James Gray, who emptied the bank account of an 80-year-old man in a roofing con, has been jailed for four and a half years.

Gray claimed he was coming to the rescue when he first knocked on David Margerum’s door telling him he knew some other builders had cheated him.

But the 50-year-old systematically plundered thousands of pounds for substandard work from his victim, who died a few months later in Prospect Hospice.

And at the time Gray, who was jailed for one of the country’s worst cases of animal cruelty in 2009, was awaiting trial for a similar con on an 88-year-old man.

Daniel Fugallo, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court that in September 2012 the pensioner, who lived alone, was cold called by another roofer who charged him thousands for unnecessary work. Weeks later Gray arrived at the house on Beverstone Grove, Lawns, and said he had heard about what happened and was there to put things right.

“He told Mr Margerum he had spoken to the local police and knew Mr Margerum had had unnecessary work done and he was there to help,” he said.

“Mr Margerum was confused at what was going on and he agreed to Mr Gray doing work to the property. He started doing work on the roof. He originally told him the total value would not exceed £4,000, but it did continually exceed that.”

Over the next 10 months he repeatedly visited the old man doing shoddy work and taking thousands in cash and cheques.

Mr Fugallo said paint put on the coal bunker simply washed away when it rained and over the months neighbour Wayne Hayward became concerned.

“Mr Hayward approached Mr Margerum when he saw him outside his property and saw him looking withdrawn.

“He asked directly what was the matter and whether he had been conned by the work that had been going on. Mr Margerum said he thought he had. He showed him his bank statements. Mr Hayward described himself feeling sick as he saw the thousands of pounds paid out for work. Mr Hayward called the police.”

Mr Margerum’s bank balance had gone from £18,000 at the start of the work down to just £325, though Gray insisted he only got about £14,000 of it.

In the following months his nephew’s wife said he looked unkempt and he said he hadn’t eaten as all his money had gone. In November last year he died. Mr Fugallo said in 2011 the roofer carried out a similar scam on an 88-year-old man near Amersham, Buckinghamshire.

He took the man for £20,000 and was caught when the pensioner’s bank manager became suspicious and called the police.

Gray, of Amersham, Bucks, admitted two counts of fraud.

The court heard he had numerous convictions for dishonesty and in 2009 was jailed for six months for animal neglect.

Michael Edmonds, defending, said as a result of that court case he had been left bankrupt by the RSPCA’s costs of £1m.

Jailing him, Judge Tim Mousley QC said: “You targeted vulnerable people deliberately. These offences were mean in the extreme.”