A COWBOY builder who made off with an elderly Bradford couple’s life savings, and then evaded justice for almost five years, has now been jailed for 25 months.

James Rennard was arrested on a warrant five days before appearing at Bradford Crown Court in custody to plead guilty to offences of fraud and theft dating from September 4, 2013.

Prosecutor Camille Morland said that Rennard turned up “randomly” at the couple’s home in Storr Hill Terrace, Carr House Gate, Wyke, in a white van.

Rennard, 35, said that the pensioners’ needed their roof fixing and he had some leftover cement to do the repair.

Miss Morland said the husband was 91 and suffered with Alzheimer’s Disease, while his wife, 81, was also unwell.

Rennard told them the repair would cost £350 and went up on the roof.

But he came down to say it would be a further £350 to finish the job.

The elderly man fetched the envelope containing the couple’s savings and counted out the extra cash.


Rennard then distracted him by asking to borrow a pen and made off with the envelope, containing £2,438, from the kitchen table.

When the householder realised the money had gone, he found that Rennard and his van had also vanished.

The court heard that the roof did not need repairing and the work Rennard had done left it in a worse state, making it more susceptible to frost damage and falling tiles.

Rennard, of Holmfield Lane, Pontefract, was arrested the following month after leaving a business card with his fingerprints on it at the couple’s address.

The fleeced householder told the police: “I cannot believe that someone could trick a pensioner and steal money from them.”

When Rennard fled Bradford Crown Court before the start of his trial, on June 19, 2014, a warrant was issued not backed for bail.

He had 15 previous convictions for 31 offences, including a similar matter in 2010 in which he targeted an elderly victim in a confidence fraud.

Ian Cook, Rennard’s barrister, conceded they were “particularly mean” offences.

Rennard had attended court for his trial but became upset, panicked and left the building without returning.

He had stayed at his mother’s address, waiting for a knock on the door.

Mr Cook said that Rennard had a serious drink problem at the time.

He had since inherited his horse dealing business and made it a success, dramatically turning his life around.

Rennard had committed no offences in the past five years and had already enlisted on the Alcohol Treatment Programme in Leeds Prison after his arrest last week.

Judge Colin Burn labelled the fraud and theft “terribly mean offences.”

“The enormity and sheer badness of what you did may have contributed to your rehabilitation since,” he said.

Rennard was jailed for 22 months for fraud and theft, with three months to run consecutively for the Bail Act offence.

However, Cllr David Warburton (Labour, Wyke), said no jail sentence would be long enough for what Rennard had done.

"It's despicable that someone should pick on vulnerable and elderly people, especially anyone who is suffering from Alzheimer's," he said.

"It's absolutely disgusting and they should throw away the key.

"Elderly people or anyone who cares for them should make sure they don't hold onto cash in their house.

"It needs to be banked or made secure somewhere."

Pauline Smith, director of Action Fraud, added: "Fraudsters are cruelly targeting the most vulnerable people in our society to make them part with their cash and personal details.

“It is vital that you are aware of these frauds and how to spot them and if you think you, or a friend or family member, has been a victim, report it to Action Fraud.”