Former Marlborough woman Lorraine Ellis, who tricked elderly and vulnerable victims into handing over large sums of money, has been jailed for four years.

Ellis, 56, who dressed like a man, rented a split-level bungalow where she lived for about a year on the exclusive development of 18 homes known as Baywater at Poulton.

Ellis, who was living in Kintbury when she was arrested and formerly lived in Marlborough and Hungerford, was sentenced to four years in prison after admitting a total of 11 offences at Winchester Crown Court on Friday, August 24.

She had previous convictions for fraud when, the court heard, she conned her victims into investing thousands of pounds into her wine business which she said was in Sheffield, before making off with their money.

The offences, which took place between 2006 and 2009, included: n Conning an elderly couple and their vulnerable daughter from Swindon out of £24,000; n Convincing a young woman from Marlborough, whose father had recently died, to hand over £21,000; n Being given £1,900 from an elderly man in Hungerford who had recently been widowed; n Opening two credit cards in the name of a gardener from Chester and amassing debt in excess of £5,000; n Obtaining two mortgages for £105,000 and £156,000.

Detective Constable Keith Harford, from Melksham CID who investigated the case, said: “Ellis is a confidence trickster and targeted elderly and vulnerable victims, purporting to be in the wine business, and conned them into handing over large amounts of cash to ‘invest’ in her business.

“Ellis dishonestly obtained property and goods in excess of £280,000 and the money still outstanding to the victims is in the region of £82,900.”

In impact statements one of her victims said: “I initially thought she had a heart of gold, but I now realise she is a cold heartless person who was out to steal money from me.”

Another said: “I honestly believe that she should go to prison, in order to put a stop to her behaviour and to prevent other vulnerable people becoming victim of her criminality.”

A third victim said: “Ellis befriended me, she acted as though she was a close trusting friend. She totally fooled me into believing she was a nice genuine person. “She has lied to me, and taken advantage of me all for her own personal gain.

“There has been no thought or consideration for me at all.”

One of her former neighbours in Baywater, who asked not to be named, said: “She came round to all of us trying to get us to part with money to invest in her so-called wine business in Sheffield.

“But she did not strike me as genuine. She always dressed like a man and there was something about her I could not trust.”