A Facebook scammer who conned an elderly couple out of a caravan has avoided jail after a judge took pity on him.

Bradford Crown Court heard how Kyle Walker fleeced the man and his wife in July 2021 by pretending to pay £3,900 for their caravan via a mobile bank transfer app.

The man later died with his wife blaming his premature death on the stress of the incident.

Prosecutor Harry Crowson said Walker, of Fenby Avenue, Bradford, arranged to meet the couple at their home to inspect the caravan after it was advertised on Facebook Marketplace.

He said: “He then, using his mobile phone, essentially performed and made a show of transferring the agreed sum of £3,900 and showing his phone screen to [the victim] and making it look as if he’d paid them.

“It was, however, a lie and ruse that would become a factor and a theme.”

The caravan was then hooked up to Walker’s vehicle and he drove it away.

It was only after he left that the couple realised they had been tricked and he had not actually paid.

Walker initially claimed the payment might be delayed.

The victims tried to contact him the following day when the money failed to arrive in their account but Walker failed to respond and so the police were called. 

Mr Crowson told the court that Walker, now 36, initially claimed he had paid cash for the caravan and ridiculed the couple, describing them as “old and losing it”. 

When the “near-perfect” caravan was recovered it had been damaged and was in a “very poor” condition. 

The court heard that Walker, who appeared via video link from HMP Leeds, had defrauded other victims in Halifax, Leeds and Buxton out of mobile phones, an iPad, and a porcelain dinner set worth a total of £1,900 in September and October 2021.

Mitigating, Matthew Stewart said Walker had failed to attend a scheduled trial due to his daughter receiving medical treatment in Ireland at the time, which had had “a significant impact” on him and his wife.

He added that at the time of his offending Walker “fell on hard times and had no finances. He had no money in order to provide for his children or his wife, and he accepts it was wrong what he did.

“He takes responsibility.

“He was getting that money in order to provide for his children.”

In sentencing Walker His Honour Judge Ahmed Nadim said he was persuaded by his domestic circumstances to give him a chance by not imposing a custodial sentence.

He said: “It is your family – your daughter – who is saving you from a further custodial experience.

“If I’m wrong then what will happen is this: the best years of your life will be spent in unhappy places like prison. Your family will suffer uncertainty. I don’t want that for you or for them and I hope you share that view.

“The key to the prison cell is in your hands.”

He sentenced Walker to one year in prison suspended for 18 months and ordered him to carry out 250 hours of unpaid work in the community. He also imposed five rehabilitation activity requirement days.