Retired Oxford don conned out of £77k for roof repairs by builder
27th January 2023

Retired Oxford don, 87, and his wife are conned out of £77,000 for roof repairs that should have cost £1,000 – as cowboy builder, 25, found guilty of money-laundering charges

  • An 87-year-old retired professor paid nearly 80 times the value for roof repairs
  • Cowboy builder Douglas Dawson’s work was worth ‘barely more than £1,000’ 

A retired Oxford don and his wine expert wife were scammed out of almost £80,000 by cowboy builders for roof repairs that should have cost about £1,000.

Professor Nigel Wilson was conned over roof repairs at his home in Oxfordshire by rogue builders who demanded ever-increasing amounts of cash in January 2020.

A court heard that by the time the couple’s financial adviser asked for more rigorous paperwork from ‘Oxfordshire Roofing Company’, the crooks had got away with £77,000.

The money was transferred into 25-year-old scaffolder Douglas Dawson’s Barclays bank account, he has now been found guilty on money laundering charges.

The couple did for a breakdown of costs for the works on their Victorian-era home in Oxford, but their suggestion a surveyor should be brought in was batted away as ‘unfair’.

Professor Nigel Wilson, 87, an expert on Byzantine history and a retired classics professor at Lincoln College, was conned out of nearly £80,000 over roof repairs at his Oxfordshire home

Giving evidence at Oxford Crown Court this week, the expert on Byzantine history, told the jury of his decision to pay out the eye-watering sum.

Prof Wilson said: ‘One might say it was a bit of a lapse, but one does tend to take people on trust until one has some reason to doubt their credibility.’

A building expert later found the works – including roofing works – were worth barely more than £1,000.

Nigel is married to Dr Hanneke Wilson, a wine expert who has coached the university’s blind tasting team ahead of their Varsity bouts.

The professor gave evidence at the trial of the man Trading Standards said laundered the almost £80,000 fortune.

Douglas Dawson, of Hornbeam Way, Waltham Cross, was tracked down by Trading Standards financial investigators.

He was interviewed at Hertford police station in November 2020.

Sitting alongside his solicitor, he answered no comment to all questions put to him – and refused to allow the council officers access to his bank statements.

Cowboy builder Douglas Dawson (pictured outside Oxford Crown Court) conned the retired Oxford professor and his wine expert wife out of almost £80k

They got access through his bank and his statements showed large sums being paid in by the Wilsons, the majority of which was taken out in cash.

Of the £75,000 transferred in – £2,000 having been given in cash as a ‘deposit’ to secure the scaffolding – £69,900 was withdrawn in January and February.

Dawson was also said to have been one of three men sent to dismantle scaffolding from the Victorian property in April.

Prof Wilson, who said he thought the men were a ‘trifle surprised’ he had asked for their van registration number, managed to get a picture of the three workmen.

READ MORE: Fake builder, 38, who scammed 11 people out of more than £1million and left families with wrecked homes after taking on jobs despite having no construction experience is jailed for three years

The Trading Standards officer who interviewed Dawson seven months later identified one of the scaffolders as the defendant.

Giving evidence in his own defence, Dawson told jurors that the man he referred to as ‘the builder’ said he had problems with his bank account and asked to pay money into the scaffolder’s account.

He then withdrew sums in cash and gave it to ‘the builder’ when he saw him at the next job.

The balance that was not withdrawn in cash was payment for scaffolding jobs.

Dawson told his barrister he had no suspicion the money was ‘criminal property’ and denied involvement in any fraud at the Jericho property.

The scaffolder acknowledged he had kept no paper records or provided invoices.

‘I’m just a normal bloke,’ he said. ‘I’m not going through rules and regulations like health and safety.’ He added: ‘I should, but I don’t.’

Dawson’s barrister Charles Royle said: ‘This isn’t Strictly Come Dancing or Dancing on Ice or anything you vote for – I’m a Celebrity.

‘You don’t choose who you prefer. You are deciding a very different question: are you sure of guilt?’

Jurors at Oxford Crown Court returned guilty verdicts to charges of entering into a money laundering arrangement, acquiring criminal property and converting criminal property.

Judge Nigel Daly bailed Dawson to return to court on March 13 for sentence.

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