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Wales Online
Wales Online
Neil Shaw

Retired professor scammed out of £80,000 for £1,000 job by roofers

A retired Oxford don and his wine expert wife were scammed out of almost £80k by builders - for a job that should cost around £1K, a court heard. Professor Nigel Wilson, an expert on Byzantine history and a retired classics professor at Lincoln College, was conned over roof repairs at his home.

The builders demanded ever-increasing amounts of cash be transferred as the costs of the building work spiralled in January 2020. By the time the couple’s financial adviser demanded more rigorous paperwork from firm ‘Oxfordshire Roofing Company’ and put a stop to further payments, the crooks had got away with £77,000.

The couple had already asked for a detailed breakdown of costs, while their suggestion a surveyor should be brought in was batted away as ‘unfair’. Giving evidence at Oxford Crown Court this week, Prof Wilson told the jury of his decision to pay out the eye-watering sum.

He said: “One might say it was a bit of a lapse, but one does tend to take people on trust until one has some reason to doubt their credibility.” A building expert later found the works – including roofing works – were worth barely more than £1,000.

Nigel is married to Dr Hanneke Wilson, a wine expert who has coached the university’s blind tasting team ahead of their Varsity bouts. The professor gave evidence at the trial of the man Trading Standards said laundered the almost £80,000 fortune.

It was into Douglas Dawson’s Barclays bank account that the sums were transferred. The 25-year-old scaffolder, of Hornbeam Way, Waltham Cross, was tracked down by Trading Standards financial investigators.

He was interviewed at Hertford police station in November 2020. Sitting alongside his solicitor, he answered no comment to all questions put to him – and refused to allow the council officers access to his bank statements.

They got access through his bank and his statements showed large sums being paid in by the Wilsons, the majority of which was taken out in cash. Of the £75,000 transferred in - £2,000 having been given in cash as a ‘deposit’ to secure the scaffolding - £69,900 was withdrawn in January and February.

Dawson was also said to have been one of three men sent to dismantle scaffolding from the Victorian property in Allam Street in April. Prof Wilson, who said he thought the men were a ‘trifle surprised’ he had asked for their van registration number, managed to get a picture of the three workmen.

The Trading Standards officer who interviewed Dawson seven months later identified one of snapped scaffolders as the defendant. Giving evidence in his own defence, Dawson told jurors that the man he referred to as ‘the builder’ said he had problems with his bank account and asked to pay money into the scaffolder’s account.

He then withdrew sums in cash and gave it to ‘the builder’ when he saw him at the next job. The balance that was not withdrawn in cash was payment for scaffolding jobs.

Dawson told his barrister he had no suspicion the money was ‘criminal property’ and denied involvement in any fraud at the Jericho property. The scaffolder acknowledged he had kept no paper records or provided invoices.

“I’m just a normal bloke,” he said. “I’m not going through rules and regulations like health and safety.” He added: “I should, but I don’t.” Dawson’s barrister Charles Royle said: “This isn’t Strictly Come Dancing or Dancing on Ice or anything you vote for – I’m a Celebrity.

''You don’t choose who you prefer. You are deciding a very different question: are you sure of guilt?”

Jurors at Oxford Crown Court returned guilty verdicts to charges of entering into a money laundering arrangement, acquiring criminal property and converting criminal property. Judge Nigel Daly bailed Dawson to return to court on March 13 for sentence.

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