A 77-year-old rogue builder who preyed on elderly victims and conned them out of thousands of pounds has been spared jail.

Thomas Gumble was sentenced to 18 months in prison, suspended for two years, at Croydon Crown Court after pleading guilty to defrauding people in Norbury and Thornton Heath.

In one case, Gumble regularly called an 89-year-old widow over a seven year period, duping her into making 26 payments amounting to more than £26,000.

And another of his victims, who paid about £9,000 for him to clear her flowerbeds and cement them over, said she hopes no-one else is as stupid as she was to trust him.

Elizabeth Cookson said she had seen him doing gardening work for others near her home in Thornton Heath and paid him in dribs and drabs for materials instead of asking for a quote for the work.

The 89-year-old said: "You have got to be aware that somebody is using you in a way but I wasn’t.

"Yet if I went shopping and I thought ‘that’s a bit dear’ I wouldn’t buy it.

"I was gullible.

"He was a conman and he took advantage and I was gullible.

"I hope that nobody else was as stupid as I was."

Croydon Council’s trading standards officers got in touch with Mrs Cookson after tracking payments made to Gumble’s accounts.

And after he pleaded guilty at court she has been able to come to terms with what happened.

She added: "It was a very funny feeling that I felt when he admitted his crimes and I was a bit shattered and I felt I had been a bloody fool.

"I was a clod to do that and I’m not doing it anymore.

"It was a horrible feeling that he had taken advantage like that.

"He must have seen me coming."

Confiscation proceedings have been launched against Gumble, which will examine his assets to see what he gained as a result of his criminal activity.

He was also given a criminal behaviour order, which prevents him from cold calling or carrying out any unsolicited building work anywhere in England or Wales.

This is the first time a criminal behaviour order has been granted in London specifically for a trading standards investigation.

Gumble, of Strathdon Drive, Tooting, pleaded guilty to three offences under the Fraud Act and three offences under the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations.

He was sentenced at Croydon Crown Court on Tuesday, February 24.