Blind World Magazine

United Kingdom.
Partially sighted woman, 87, gave away her house, thinking she was signing for a box of chocolates.

November 12, 2005.
Daily Mirror (UK).

Frail OAP signed for surprise gift of sweets.. but gave away her 130,000 house for a paltry 5,000, court told

A WOMAN of 87 gave away her house thinking she was signing for a box of chocolates, a court heard yesterday.

Partially sighted Ambrosine St Clair Fretwell put her signature to a Land Registry form to sell the 130,000 house for 5,000 to car salesman David Graves.

He flogged it to developers for 105,000 - a 2,000 per cent profit - it was claimed.

Graves, 39, allegedly blew the cash on a 5,000 boob job for his ex-girlfriend, a BMW, Christmas gifts and paid off his mortgage. Mrs Fretwell had kept the house in Swinton, South Yorks, as an investment after moving out. She had no idea about the purchase deal until it was sold at auction.

Prosecutor Andrew Kershaw told Sheffield crown court: "It is a story about greed, making a quick profit and playing a cynical trick on an elderly lady.

"Their story is a highly improbable state of affairs of an elderly, partially sighted lady gifting her 130,000 investment away on her doorstep in the evening gloom to a man who meant nothing to her."

The court heard stranger Richard Skidmore turned up at the house she bought for 42,500 in 1990 to deliver an unexpected parcel. He insisted she sign for it.

Graves, 39, and Skidmore, 35, both from Rotherham, South Yorks, deny conspiracy to defraud and claim the deal was genuine.

Graves knew Skidmore from a gym and he acted as the courier to deliver the chocolates. Mrs Fretwell said she and son James, 59, were "absolutely stunned" when they heard the house had been sold last Christmas.

She said she had signed for a package when it was delivered even though she was suspicious of the parcel. The document she signed was folded and showed she had sold the house.

She told the court : "I had no intention of selling it."

Mrs Fretwell, who is registered blind, denied signing a Land Registry document and said it was "impossible and ridiculous". And she said she never told Graves that she wanted to sell the house when he had called at her home earlier.

Graves claims that when he called he told Mrs Fretwell he was interested in buying the house for his sister who was returning to the area from Scotland.

He claims that he bought the house for his sister whose name was used on the Land Registry document, but later sold it quickly when his plans changed.

The trial continues.

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