A Swanscombe man who posed as a tree surgeon before defrauding elderly and vulnerable people in south Essex out of thousands of pounds have been found guilty of fraud offences.

Mark Thwaites, 40 and of Childs Crescent in Swanscombe, was convicted of five counts of fraud by false representation at Basildon Crown Court on Thursday, August 1.

Thwaites was one of five men, including Marc Osbourne from Gravesend, found guilty of of scamming seven people, all aged between 79 and 95, from November 9 to November 16 by convincing them that they were legitimate tree surgeons.

These horrific offences took place in Benfleet, Hullbridge and Southend after the victims called numbers of flyers on behalf of tree felling companies.

The victims were all driven or walked to their banks along with one of the suspects and were told to tell bank staff they wanted to withdraw cash for a present.

Following an investigation, detectives from Essex Police arrested seven men, with the other two released without charge.

Speaking on the case, Detective Constable Rob Lewis of Basildon CID, said: "This has been a protracted investigation with Orsbourn and Thwaites continually denying the offences, meaning the victims have had to endure further court hearings and a trial to get to the case’s conclusion today.

"I would like to thank them for their bravery and their families for their patience and support.

"These crimes have had a significant impact on the victims their health and the repercussions have an effect today.

"Fortunately, a jury were not convinced by the lies of Orsbourn and Twaites, two men who went into our communities to target its most vulnerable people.

"his case highlights the dangers of posed by cold callers who put leaflets through the letterboxes with the aim of targeting the elderly and vulnerable and I would urge everyone to remain vigilant.

"Look out for elderly friends and relatives and only engage with trusted tradespeople who have been verified and checked."