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Happy-go-lucky Les Beesley has never let his learning disability stand in his way. The Solihull pensioner is a permanent and popular fixture in his local community, with a social calendar to rival most socialites.

But in December 2014 his whole world was turned upside down in the most devastating of circumstances.

The vulnerable 68-year-old was befriended at a Christmas party by a younger man calling himself Trevor*. Over the course of the next month, and under the guise of friendship and companionship, Trevor and Les spent countless hours together.

Alison Wilson, his Bromford support worker, said: “Les is very independent but I do come in once a week to open and organise his post and through seeing bank statements over a period of time, I knew Les had quite a decent amount of money in his account.

“It was one weekday in February (2015) that I noticed – to my shock – that his bank statement showed his account was virtually empty. I knew somebody had recently befriended him so I started probing Les about this relationship and we also went along to the local branch of his bank where the full magnitude of the financial abuse started to unravel.”

The bank informed Alison that a man, pretending to be his grandson, had been regularly visiting the bank on different days and Les had been withdrawing up to £500 at a time.

“He would take Les up to a cashpoint or even into the actual bank and ask Les to withdraw his money. And Les has not always been very good at saying no to people so unfortunately he agreed,” Alison said.

In just a few short weeks, almost £7,000 in life savings had been taken from his account. But far from the ordeal stopping at financial abuse, Les also soon revealed bruising on his arms and legs.

Les explained: “He said he wanted to be friends and that we could go out and drink together and do other things in the community. He kept coming round and picking me up but sometimes he would pull the rug away from under my feet and I would fall over. It made me feel mad and upset.”

Alison immediately opened a safeguarding case and contacted social services and police. The police launched an investigation but, despite various lines of enquiry, no charges were ever brought due to the nature of the incidents where Les would withdraw the money and not the alleged perpetrator.

“How can anyone do that to another human being?”

The traumatic experience left Les increasingly reluctant to interact with people or leave the house, on an estate where he has lived for 14 years.

Alison added: “Les leads a simple life and doesn’t ask for anything off anyone. His main purpose in life is having a couple of long weekend breaks on a coach trip each year – this financial abuse left him not being able to book his holidays which is probably when the realisation set in for him and left him feeling really low – he went from his lovely outgoing self to worrying every time he needed to leave the house.”

Alison worked with Les on his budgeting skills and together they devised a plan which enabled him to save £30-a-week from his usual outgoings – by cutting down on cigarettes and other non-essential items. By last summer, Les had saved enough money for a deposit on a coach holiday later in the year and this kept him motivated to stick to his money saving plans. Les’ hard work and resilience eventually paid off and for New Year’s Eve 2015 he enjoyed the sights and sounds of Bournemouth as he slowly manages to replace some of the lost money.

“Out of a desperately sad situation, Les has shown an awful lot of strength,” Alison added. “You do think to yourself: how can anyone do something like that to another human being? But together we’ve made the best out of the situation and he now knows to alert someone if anyone ever asks to be taken to a cashpoint or bank. He’s gradually getting his confidence back and currently volunteers at a coffee morning and gardening class as well as being involved in Shirley Drama Club.”

An upbeat Les concluded: “Alison helped me get back in touch with Robert who is an old friend I have known for over 30 years and this summer we are going on holiday to Torquay together so I’m really happy with that.”

*name changed for legal reasons

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