A FRAUDSTER has been jailed after he conned a pensioner out of his £150,000 life savings to fund a gambling habit.

Philip Holt systematically persuaded his vulnerable 78-year-old victim to cash in his stocks, shares and premium bonds and even release £38,750 equity in his home after befriending him while selling goods door-to-door.

Geoff Whelan, prosecuting, told Bolton Crown Court how the crime only came to light after the pensioner’s loan company, Aviva, raised the alarm.

The elderly man requested two payments of £11,000 each and a further £6,000 from his equity release lump sum within weeks of each other in June and July, 2012.

The matter was referred to the police’s serious organised crime department, and when officers visited the victim he told them: “I think I know why you are here.”

After initially being evasive the elderly man, who has previously suffered a stroke, told police how he had repeatedly handed over large sums of cash to 44-year-old Holt over a six year period.

The conman had told him he was facing jail over an unpaid tax bill and was worried about the fate of his children.

Mr Whelan said: “In effect it was a tale to encourage the victim to hand over money as a result of sympathy that would be engendered.”

The pensioner told police: “I lent him the money because I believed in him. I thought we were friends.”

Mr Whelan said the victim kept a running total of how much he had loaned Holt, but stopped counting when it reached more than £150,000 and he realised he would never be paid back.

After Holt’s arrest police raided his home and found a number of betting slips. They discovered Holt had spent more than £300,000 with Ladbrokes and lost almost £64,000.

Holt, of Chorley Street, Bolton, pleaded guilty to fraud and the court heard he had committed a similar offence, stealing more than £2,000 from a pensioner in Liverpool in 2007.

Wayne Jackson, defending, said gambling lay at the heart of Holt’s problems.

He added: “He described himself, at the time, as a nasty evil person. He accepts what he did was wrong. Bizarrely, what concerns him the most is the loss of his friendship with the victim.”

Mr Jackson said family members will now have to rally round to care for his five children after Holt’s partner, Sheri Torkington, was also jailed for six years in May 2013 for causing the death by dangerous driving of Laura Farrell.

Sentencing Holt to three years and three months in prison, the Honorary Recorder of Bolton, Judge Timothy Clayson told him: “You employed a variety of deceptions in order to fleece the victim out of a large proportion of his wealth.

"The public regard this type of offence committed against elderly, vulnerable victims, as utterly deplorable.”