A COWBOY roofer from Ledbury has been jailed for fleecing elderly victims out of their life savings by charging thousands of pounds for unnecessary and bungled work.

Phillip Small targeted pensioners living on their own who needed minor repairs and tempted them with small quotes which shot up as soon as he started work.

He often removed parts of roofs, leaving homes open to the rain, before demanding huge sums to finish the job.

Father-of-three Small, aged 41, of Woodlands Park, left a trail of vulnerable victims across Cornwall, Devon and the South West over three years.

His victims included an 86- year-old Alzheimer’s sufferer and a 76-year-old partially blinded widow and he plundered all but £1,100 of one pensioner’s life savings in just 18 days.

The man never recovered from the shock and died within two years.

Small was jailed for two and a half years at Exeter Crown Court after Judge John Neligan heard how many of his victims had been left impoverished and upset. The judge told him: “The victims have all suffered financially and emotionally.

“They are elderly people who have had their confidence in human nature and life thoroughly wrecked.”

Small made more than £100,000 out of 12 victims of whom the youngest was 60 and the oldest 89.

He used false names and invented bogus companies with false addresses to prevent his dissatisfied customers catching up with him.

Small admitted three offences of deception and one of running a fraudulent business.

He was jailed for 30 months by Judge John Neligan at Exeter Crown Court and now faces the seizure of his assets under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Alzheimer’s sufferer Eric Harding, aged 86, from Paignton, lost more than £20,000 and taxpayers are now picking up the bill for his care because he has no savings left.

Small moved on to overcharge victims in Bristol, Gloucestershire and Wales .

The total amount charged was £106,060, but the court heard Small carried out about £20,000 worth of work.

Dawn Burrows, defending, said Small had not targeted the elderly and only three of his 12 victims could be said to be vulnerable.

Only seven had been cold called and he did significant amounts of work for six of the victims.

She said he had worked as a roofer since he was 15 years old and was determined to work honestly when released from jail.