Winsford community comes to aid of 81-year-old woman after she's scammed out of £20,000

Jennifer Buck's report on how Winsford came together to support Ann.

Local businesses have come to the aid of a woman in her 80s after she was tricked into paying a building company £20,000 for repairs her home did not need.

Ann Rowlands, from Winsford in Cheshire, had been visited by supposed builders multiple times over the course of two years, offering to fix supposed problems they had noticed with her roof.

In their latest attempts to scam Ann, the builders told her over the phone that the roof of her home on Pipers Ash was in need of urgent repairs and offered to complete the work.

Ann said: "They said; could they come round and talk to me about it? There's no harm in talking so I said okay."

A few days later, Ann was on her way back from the shops when she noticed two men on her roof.

She said: "Nobody came round to talk to me. I've got two lads on my roof without my permission."

After taking a number of tiles off the roof, the builders started demanding large amounts of cash in order to complete the work.

She said: "Initially they said they needed £40,000 and then it went down to £25,000."

Ann's roof was left in a dangerous state by the rogue builders Credit: Sy Smith

Under pressure from the builders, Ann went to the bank to withdraw the money. Luckily, a concerned staff member informed Cheshire Police before Ann could hand over the money.

It's estimated that she paid them around £20,000 over the course of two years for work that did not need doing.

The builders had done significant damage, making her building unsafe.

Ann said: "That's when I started thinking about ways of committing suicide. I just felt like dying. I had no real money to put it right."

When police began investigating the builders, they knocked on the door of Sy Smith, who lived across the road, to ask if his Ring doorbell had picked up any footage of the roofers.

When the officers told Sy what had happened to Ann, he immediately went over to check on her.

He said: "I was flabbergasted. I was in absolute shock they did this to an old person.

"I went over and she was terribly upset. Then I went away sat at my desk and trying to work out what I could do, so yeah that’s why I went to social media for help."

In a community group, Sy alerted neighbours to the risks of rogue roofers in the area and asked if anyone would be able to offer Ann any help repairing the damage that had been done, as she had already given away most of her savings.

Sy went to social media for help.

Just a few hours after making the post, James Edwards of JAE Roofing Services reached out to Sy and offered to have a look at Ann's roof.

James said: "[Sy] got me in touch with the lady and we arranged to come out the next day and see her. We had a look at the roof and it was in a terrible way.

"They've left without finishing the roof, done it all completely wrong, so it's all got to be stripped off and done all over again."

Seeing the size of the task ahead of Ann, James reached out to local business in the area.

He said: "We had a rally around all the local builders and merchants, and we managed to get all the materials free of charge, donated by all the local businesses."

James and his employees also offered to work on the house for free, saving Ann thousands of pounds.

James and his coworkers have begun working on Ann's roof.

He said: "All in, if I was to do the job and get the materials that would probably cost seven or eight thousand pounds."

On how her local community came together to help her, Ann said: "I haven't got words. I was just absolutely amazed. And so, so grateful.

"I was very close to committing suicide. It's just given me hope, it's given me a renewed trust in people and now I've got a future again."

Ann's neighbour Sy has also worked with James to set up a Go Fund Me for Ann to recoup some of her losses.

James said: "Even if we get a fraction of that money back for her, every penny matters."

Less than 24 hours after the fundraiser went live, it's raised just under £2,000.

Police Constable Adam Baxter said: “Offences of this nature are absolutely sickening, and I would like to reassure local residents that we are doing all we can to identify the people responsible.

“Our investigation is in its early stages, and I would ask anyone with any information which may aid our enquires to get in touch.

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