Blackmailer hunted down his elderly victim
A CAREER conman who hunted down an elderly woman and threatened to hurt her unless she paid him cash has been jailed for blackmail and theft.
Callous Paul Byrne, 48, demanded cash from the city hotelier or he would "sort it out" and claimed he had already put "two others in hospital", Plymouth Crown Court heard.
He lied to the woman, saying he had gone to jail for seven years after she had made a previous fraud complaint against him after he stayed at her Plymouth hotel.
The woman, who bravely faced her tormentor in court, put down the phone and called the police.
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Now a judge has locked Byrne up for five years for three offences.
Recorder Michael Selfe told Byrne: "You deliberately targeted elderly ladies, thinking they might be more gullible than others, taking advantage of them.
"When you do not succeed to the degree that you hope, you come back for more."
Byrne, of Thurcaston Road, Leicester, admitted theft of bank cards and cash of £600 from another elderly woman in Dawlish on January 27, 2010. He also pleaded guilty to committing fraud by false representation in February 2010 by booking six rooms at the Plymouth woman's hotel for a fictitious group of workers.
Byrne admitted blackmail, by demanding money with menaces, from the hotelier on January 20 this year.
He also asked for four similar offences of fraud and theft to be taken into consideration, adding up to a total gain of £3,000, mostly from victims in South Devon.
Llewellyn Sellick, for the Crown Prosecution Service, said: "The defendant can perhaps be called a career criminal, a professional trickster with a record of duping elderly women."
He said Byrne turned up at the hotel and said he was in charge of a team of men doing building work in Liskeard.
He added Byrne claimed he needed six rooms for several weeks, which would mean a bill of about £3,000.
Mr Sellick said he borrowed £500 from the woman, but he never paid the money back and he did not pay the £200 bill for his own room. The court heard the other men did not show up.
Mr Sellick said Byrne then called the hotel out of the blue almost two years later, asking to speak to the woman.
He added the woman was not there but he persuaded a member of staff to give him her home number, falsely claiming he had some important papers to return.
Mr Sellick said: "He called the woman, saying he had just got out of prison after seven years through her opening her mouth. He said he would sort it out and had already put two others in hospital."
He added he told the woman to put some cash into a friend's bank account.
Jason Beal, for Byrne, said he had pleaded guilty to the latest offences at an early stage.
He added he showed remorse, though only time would tell whether it was genuine.
Mr Beal said alcohol was "at the heart" of his offending but added he was now suffering from hepatitis.
The court heard Byrne's criminal record went back to 1979 and included many offences of dishonesty and some of violence all over the country.
He was jailed most recently at Exeter Crown Court for 16 months for other fraud offences.
THE ELDERLY victim of callous conman Paul Byrne said she was so afraid after his chilling threats that she did not leave her house for two weeks.
The woman, who does not want to be named, welcomed the five-year jail term for the 48-year-old.
She bravely attended Plymouth Crown Court to face the man who had defrauded and then blackmailed her.
The woman said: "It was terrible. It took me two weeks before I ventured out of the house. He said he had been watching me and knew I went out for a smoke in the evening."
She now believes Byrne made a lucky guess, knowing she was a smoker from the time he spent at her hotel almost two years before.
"He is just a typical conman. He has come out with so many lies. But the habit is so ingrained, I am sure he will do it again once he is released."
But the woman said Byrne, using another name, was so plausible when he first turned up at the hotel two years ago, claiming to be the head of a building crew.
She said he claimed he had lost £400 at a card game in a city pub and persuaded her to lend him £500, even going to the cashpoint with her to withdraw the money.
The woman said: "I was thoroughly ashamed of myself to be conned in that way. I was such an idiot. I did not tell my family for a month.
"I felt guilty at the time."
Detective Constable Alicia Pointon, who helped bring Byrne to justice, welcomed the sentence.
She said: "We were pretty appalled at what he has done. He seems to prey on vulnerable victims while disguised as a travelling salesman.
"He has committed offences all over the country. We welcome the sentence, which will stop him preying on vulnerable victims for a few years."