Berkhamsted widow ‘conned’ out of £500k by builder friend

John Jenkins.
John Jenkins.

A vulnerable and lonely widow paid a builder over half a million pounds for work which should have cost £60,000, a jury was told.

Josephine Stubbings, 67, was befriended by John Jenkins who allegedly ‘lined his pockets’ with her savings for the next three and a half years.

Prosecutor Michael Speak said: “He relentlessly spent the money.”

On one occasion he took Mrs Stubbings, who drove a Nissan Micra, to a car dealership where he tried to persuade her to buy him a Jaguar.

He failed, but she did buy him a Peugeot. Mr Speak said: “The salesman thought it was very unusual for a lady of that age to be wanting a fast, powerful car.”

Mr Speak told the jury that Mrs Stubbings, of Berkhamsted, was a ‘vulnerable lady’.

He said: “She is a little eccentric with underlying mental health issues. She is a likeable lady. She is trusting in ways she should not be and is easily persuaded to do things in a way which none of you would do.

“Many loved ones had died and she was left alone in the world. She became isolated and began to suffer from acute anxiety.”

The prosecutor said Mr Jenkins, 70, from Poets Chase. Aylesbury, had ‘manipulated and exploited her’.

He worked as a general purpose builder, but by 2008 had either stopped working, had run out of work or was semi-retired. Mrs Stubbings had seen his ‘defunct’ advert in the Yellow Pages and contacted him to carry out a job at her home in Berkhamsted.

The court heard that Mr Jenkins persuaded her to have an ‘endless succession of work’ done on her house and mostly got others to do it for him.

Mr Speak said: “The defendant invented preposterous charges for this work, amounting to thousands and thousands of pounds. She trusted him and did not have a clear grasp of the situation. Sadly, she thought he was her friend – in reality he was anything but.”

The court heard Mrs Stubbings’ losses were revealed in November 2011 when she told a neighbour she had run out of money and asked to borrow some for food.

Mr Jenkins told police Mrs Stubbings’ house was in bad repair and he had got her out of her shell and cheered her up.

Their investigations showed she had paid him £530,000 – a surveyor found the work carried out amounted to £60,000 at most.

Giving video evidence via a pre-recorded interview with the police made in February 2012, Mrs Stubbings said: “Although he swindled me, I don’t bear him any animosity.”

She thought she had paid out about £150,000 to the builder, who did not give her any invoices or receipts.

Mrs Stubbings said she had studied English Literature at Durham University and had been a teacher before working as a post lady and as a home carer. She said she had anxiety and agoraphobia, but was now on medication.

Jenkins denies the theft of £532,695 between 1 April 2008 and 31 December 2011 and fraud by false representation between the same dates.

The Jenkins case continues.