A heartless burglar from Derbyshire who targeted elderly residents across the country whilst pretending to be a home security expert has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years.
Mark Woodliffe, 48, of Aurega Court, Derby, duped victims - some in their 90s - into believing he was a crime prevention specialist sent by local authorities to install safes, window locks and alarms.
But protecting pensioners was the last thing on the mind of callous Woodliffe − released on prison licence last year midway through a five-year term for similar ‘distraction burglaries’ − as once inside their homes he swiped cash and valuables.
A police investigation linked him to more than 30 burglaries across the UK - including one in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire where he stole £265 from a 92-year-old man.
Woodliffe admitted six counts of burglary, one theft and asked for the other 25 offences to be considered when sentencing.
The father-of-five struck at addresses spanning 11 different police force areas, including Nottinghamshire, Yorkshire and the West Midlands, and made off with £1,000s from at least 34 offences.
One of them was a burglary on May 29, where the bogus safe-fitter tricked a 78-year-old man into handing over his bank card and PIN number after telling him he was due a £125 ‘inconvenience payment’ from his council.
Minutes later Woodliffe withdrew £250 from a cash machine a short walk from victim’s home.
But four days later, West Midlands Police caught up with Woodliffe four days later when his blue BMW − a car linked to several offences through CCTV and witness accounts − triggered a patrol car’s Automatic Number Plate Recognition system in Castle Vale.
Officers also found a hat in the car matching the one worn by Woodliffe when helping himself to the 78-year-old’s savings at the ATM.
He went on to admit the Stechford offences plus five more burglaries in Mansfield Wakefield, Burton-on-Trent, Northampton and Loughborough between February and April this year.
And at Birmingham Crown Court on Thursday, December 10, Woodliffe, from Aurega Court in Derby, was jailed for a total of seven-and-a-half years. He asked for another 25 burglaries, including ones in Birmingham, Walsall and Wolverhampton, to be taken into consideration.
Detective Constable Andy Wareham, the investigating officer, said: “Distraction burglars can adopt many guises, a police officer, rat catcher, council employee or workman to name but a few. Woodliffe claimed he was there to deter crime...is victims thought he was there to help but instead he was preying on their trust.
“All of his victims were vulnerable by their age; these types of offences can have real long-term effects on their confidence and a damaging psychological impact. Many struggle to come to terms with how they were conned − and I’m sure many offences go unreported due to some victims feeling embarrassed at being duped.
“There is no shame, though, as these tricksters can be very convincing. It’s vital people to report offences or suspicious behaviour to us so that we can piece together a picture of offending patterns, potentially link offences and gather evidence.
“I’d urge anyone who has an elderly relative, neighbour or friend to pop round, check up on them, and ensure they are wary of the tactics employed by distraction burglars.
“Everyone can play their part − let’s spread the message and hopefully stop more people becoming victims.”
Woodliffe also admitted conning elderly residents in Wolverhampton, Walsall, and Kings Norton between December 2014 and April this year.
His oldest victim was a 97-year-old man, who he targeted on March 20, but after gaining access to his Loughborough home by offering to fit window locks he fled on hearing the man’s granddaughter using the flat’s intercom.
Det Con Wareham, added: “Our message is never to let anyone into your home who turns up unannounced. If anyone says they’re on official business ask to see identification, check it carefully and phone the organisation they claim to be from. Get a number from the phone book or online − don’t use any number they provide you on a card.
“If in doubt…keep them out is the mantra all residents should adopt.”