Woman left thousands out of pocket by ‘middle class squatter’ shares her story

Lesley Cordell - nee Dunn - wants people to hear her story

Lesley Cordell - nee Dunn - wants people to hear her story - Credit: Archant

A WOMAN left tens of thousands of pounds out of pocket after being conned by a “middle class squatter” has spoken out about her plight after seeing the fraudster sentenced for his crimes.

Lesley Cordell was in Cambridge Crown Court on Friday to watch Roger Woods, 68, sentenced for committing three counts of fraud by false representation.

Woods, of Harvest Court, Letchworth GC, had pleaded guilty to all three counts at an earlier date.

Mrs Cordell met Woods through his wife in 2010, and allowed the couple to stay in her late father’s house next door to her own in Greenway, Letchworth GC.

Woods had fed her a story that the couple would buy the house outright, but were waiting for cash from America. Given they were friends, Mrs Cordell was prepared to wait and believed the claims that had been made.

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But it was a story told to other people and the couple were known to estate agents in Hitchin, Letchworth GC and Central Beds, with Woods also admitting to attempting to move to a property in Lower Stondon and Letchworth GC without the funds in place.

This week, Mrs Cordell, who served as a police officer for 30 years, shared her story with the Comet in a bid to warn people of Woods’ crimes.

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“For all intents and purposes, he was a middle-class squatter,” she said.

“He was just a squatter, looking for an opportunity to take advantage of other people’s vulnerability.

“I would never have thought I was a vulnerable person – I was a police officer for 30 years, and I would not have thought I could be conned. But I was conned, I was taken in.”

Mrs Cordell, who lives with her husband Ray, paid nearly £9,000 in solicitors fees to pay for a lengthy battle fighting for the couple’s eviction and lost out on £18,000 in renting her father’s property.

Mrs Cordell said that in the 15 months Woods lived in the bungalow, its value also plummeted from £450,000 to £387,000.

It impacted on Mrs Cordell’s health, and the 53-year-old said she was forced to quit her job at the Garden House Hospice in Letchworth GC due to stress.

“I felt like putting a gun to my head and shooting myself for being so stupid,” she said.

“My life was difficult – my health began to fail.”

Woods was sentenced to 16 months in prison, suspended for two years, and 200 hours unpaid community work – a punishment Mrs Cordell says she is “very pleased with”.

Speaking after the sentencing, DC David Quinn, who investigated, said: “Woods set about purchasing three properties which he knew he did not have sufficient funds to purchase. He conned his victims by stating he was in a position to pay, which led to them being substantially out of pocket, not to mention the stress and inconvenience it caused them.

“In his summing up, the judge, Mr Justice Hawkesworth, stated that ‘this was a cruel fraud committed at a time when those anxious to sell were vulnerable’.

“This was a lengthy and in-depth investigation and we are pleased with the outcome.”

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